The founder of a neo-Nazi hate group and his associate were arrested and charged in connection with what law enforcement officials say were plans for a racially motivated attack on the power grid in Baltimore.
Brandon Russell of Florida and Sarah Clendaniel of Maryland were arrested last week for planning to use assault rifles to attack five power substations in Maryland, The Associated Press reports. According to officials, it was an attempt to cause a “cascading failure” that would leave the area around Baltimore, a majority-Black city, in darkness. The two suspects were charged with conspiring to damage an energy facility.
“It would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully,” Clendaniel told an FBI informant, according to the criminal complaint unsealed Monday. Clendaniel told the informant she was experiencing terminal kidney failure. With just a few months to live, she wanted to “accomplish something worthwhile” before her death, according to the complaint.
Russell is a convicted felon who started a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division that wants to “usher in the collapse of civilization,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The AP reports that he has a long history of ties to racist extremist ideologies and was involved in past plans to disrupt American infrastructure systems. During a press conference, Monday officials referred to Clendaniel and Russell as “racially- or ethnically-motivated extremists.”
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore also praised the investigative efforts that succeeded in “preventing a potentially catastrophic attack on several of Maryland’s electrical substations.”
Late last year, the Department of Homeland Security warned of the danger of domestic violent extremists attacking vital infrastructure. The recent arrests come on the heels of unsolved attacks on power plants in Washington, Oregon and North Carolina in recent months, though officials said the Baltimore plot appeared to be isolated.