Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Clint Russell were arrested and charged in a conspiracy to disable the power grid by shooting out substations via "sniper attacks," according to a criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.
Clendaniel allegedly said she wanted to "completely destroy this whole city" and was planning to target five substations situated in a "ring" around Baltimore, the complaint said. Russell is part of a violent extremist group that has cells in multiple states, and he previously planned to attack critical infrastructure in Florida, the complaint said.
"This planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark," Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said in a press release. "We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks."
The news comes as concerns grow about an increase in targeted attacks on U.S. substations tied to domestic extremism.
What to know about substation attacks
Federal data shows vandalism and suspicious activities at electrical facilities soared nationwide last year. At the end of the year, attacks or potential attacks were reported on more than a dozen substations and one power plant across five states. Several involved firearms.
In December, targeted attacks on substations in North Carolina left tens of thousands without power amid freezing temperatures. The FBI is investigating.
Vandalism at facilities in Washington left more than 21,000 without electricity on Christmas Day. Two men were arrested, and one told police he planned to disrupt power to commit a burglary.
The Department of Homeland Security last year said domestic extremists had been developing "credible, specific plans" since at least 2020 and would continue to "encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure."
Last February, three neo-Nazis pleaded guilty to federal crimes related to a scheme to attack the grid with rifles, with each targeting a substation in a different region of the U.S.