Two white supremacists — a Florida man and a Maryland woman — have been arrested on federal charges of plotting to attack multiple energy substation with the goal of destroying Baltimore. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that the suspects, Sarah Clendaniel of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Russell of Orlando, Florida, were allegedly fueled by a racist extremist ideology as they “conspired to inflict maximum harm” on the power grid with the aim to “completely destroy” Baltimore.
U.S. Attorney Erek Barron and a top FBI official said at a Monday morning press conference that Russell — the founder of the notorious neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen — is quoted in court documents saying that attacking power transformers is “the greatest thing somebody can do.” He is accused of providing instructions and location information for the substations he and Clendaniel allegedly sought to target as part of their plot. Clendaniel allegedly told an FBI confidential source she was “determined” to carry out the attacks aimed at Baltimore’s infrastructure, saying, “It would lay this city to waste.”
Thomas Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, said: “Their actions threatened the electricity and heat of our homes, hospitals and businesses. The FBI believes this was a real threat.” Sobocinski said the two suspects “had extremist views” and believed that by conducting the attacks, they would bring further light to their views. Sobocinski declined to go into specifics when pressed by reporters.
Russell and Clendaniel were both out on probation as they coordinated their plans to attack the energy facilities. Russell had previously pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges of possessing an unregistered destructive device and was sentenced to five years in prison. According to an affidavit, Clendaniel allegedly said she planned to target five substations in the Baltimore area on the same day — including ones in Norrisville, Reisterstown and Perry Hall.
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