Gunshots destroy electric equipment, cash reward offered for information leading to conviction

ZILLAH, Wash. --Four times since March 30, rifle-wielding assailants have taken aim at Pacific Power electrical equipment serving customers. The incidents have destroyed seven pieces of equipment causing more than $45,000 in damages for replacement and repair, adding to the cost of power interruptions for Pacific Power customers.
 
Pacific Power is working closely with local law enforcement and as well as Homeland Security and Washington State police on the investigation. A $3,000 cash reward has been established for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and convictions in the incidents. Anyone who may have been in the area at the time of the incidents and noted anything unusual is urged to call and all residents are cautioned to be on the lookout for this type of activity.

The attacks have all been at night and within 10 miles of each other in the Zillah, Outlook and Sunnyside areas. The perpetrators used a small caliber rifle, possibly one using .223 ammunition. The units have each been shot once or twice. The shots caused the oil insulating the equipment to drain out and that made the equipment fail. Law enforcement is seeking information from residents who live near the location of the attacks, which took place --March 30, 31, Apr. 17, 27. Law enforcement and Pacific Power believe the cash reward will uncover valuable information.

"These crimes cost our customers and endanger our employees and the public," said Doug Butler, vice president of operations for Pacific Power. "It creates an unnecessary safety and financial burden on our customers and we are taking aggressive action to stop it."

Damaging the electric system puts at risk crews that work on the power grid, and incur high costs on customers that conflict with Pacific Power trying to minimize future rate increases. "Outages happen, usually due to weather, but deliberately damaging equipment cause outages that not only inconvenience our customers, but put unnecessary costs on them as well. Neighbors and customers should be as angry about this as we are, and now it has the attention of law enforcement," Butler said.

"Besides harming the electrical grid, this is a public safety issue," said Mike Russell. detective sergeant, Yakima County Sheriff's Office. "Someone is going around our communities armed and with malicious intent. We need your help in holding those responsible for these crimes accountable and stopping this dangerous behavior."

Law enforcement officials and Pacific Power asks the public to report any suspicious incidents where they see individuals loitering near power equipment, especially anyone with firearms. But officials caution the public to not confront these individuals, but dial 9-1-1 immediately. If anyone has knowledge of past incidents, please call:

Yakima County Sheriff's Office 509-574-2500
Yakima County Crime Stoppers 800-248-9980
Zillah Police Department 509-829-6100
Sunnyside Police Department 509-836-6200
Toppenish Police Department 509-865-4355