The FBI has joined the investigation into a gun attack at two North Carolina electric substations that left nearly 40,000 homes without power amid freezing temperatures over the weekend.
The federal bureau will work with state and local law enforcement to probe whether people protesting a drag show in Moore County intentionally set off power to every home and business throughout the county, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Authorities have said that the substations serving the entire county were ‘intentionally’ shot at Saturday night, destroying some critical equipment while a drag show was underway — though Moore County officials have not yet determined a motive for the vandalism.
Some 45,000 customers lost power within the first few hours, but electricity has now been restored to some 11,000 customers with 36,000 still reporting they do not have gas or heat as temperatures dipped below freezing Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that monitors outages across the U.S.
Still, officials say the widespread outages may last through Thursday, after already causing several car crashes, multiple reports of break-ins and calls from residents concerned about their vital medical equipment shutting off.
At a news conference on Sunday, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks revealed that the first substation went offline between 7pm and 8pm Saturday night, with the second substation shutting off soon after.
It came as a drag show was underway at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, that had drawn the attention of several protestors who demonstrated outside.
One local, Emily Grace Rainey, who is a former Army Captain, had posted an invitation to the drag show protest on her Facebook page — later revealing: ‘The power is out in Moore County, and I know why.’
She has since insisted that she meant God intervened to shut off power during the show, writing on Facebook that deputies with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office ‘wasted their time’ when they visited her home within hours of her post.
‘I welcomed them to my home,’ she wrote. ‘Sorry they wasted their time.
‘I told them God works in mysterious ways and is responsible for the outage,’ Rainey, 32, continued. ‘I used the opportunity to tell them about the immoral drag show and the blasphemies screamed by its supporters.
‘I told them God is chastising Moore County, thanked them for coming and wished them a good night,’ she concluded, adding that she is ‘thankful for the LEOs service as always.’
Sheriff Ronnie Fields later revealed at the news conference on Sunday that the information Rainey posted online was ‘false.’
Without using her name, he said officers ‘had to go and interview this young lady and have a word of prayer with her, but it turned out to be nothing.’
Rainey served in the Army as a psychological operations officer until 2021 when she left months after leading a group of people from North Carolina to the January 6 rally in Washington that led up to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
She admitted to leading the 100 members of Moore County Citizens for Freedom, which describes itself online as a nonpartisan network promoting conservative values, to the Washington rally to ‘stand against election fraud’ and support Trump.
Commanders at Fort Bragg initially said that she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.
But she had earlier made a name for herself within the county for her opposition to mask mandates in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic after she posted a video online of her pulling down caution tape at a playground that was closed under the state’s COVID restrictions.
Police charged her with injury to personal property, revealing to WRAL-TV that they let her off with warnings twice before for tearing down the tape closing off the playground.
The Army gave Rainey ‘appropriate administrative action’ for the incident and she submitted her resignation in September 2020.