‘It would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully’
BALTIMORE — A Catonsville woman and a Florida man with neo-Nazi ties have been arrested and charged with conspiring to attack Baltimore’s power grid, the FBI and local officials announced Monday.
Sarah Beth Clendaniel was allegedly recorded telling an FBI informant her plans to shoot energy substations in Norrisville, Reisterstown and Perry Hall. She is accused of collaborating with Brandon Russell, a man who started his own local National Socialist group called the “Atomwaffen.”
“The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals,” said said Thomas Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore field office.
“If we can pull off what I’m hoping … this would be legendary,” Clendaniel said on Jan. 29, according to the court record. She was speaking to a federal informant, who was having similar discussions with Russell.
In conversations about the plot, according to court documents, one defendant “described how there was a ‘ring’ around Baltimore and if they hit a number of them all in the same day, they ‘would completely destroy this whole city.’” Prosecutors say Russell recommended targeting transformers because they are “custom made and could take almost a year to replace.” He also said the attack would be most effective after a winter storm, “when most people are using max electricity.”
Clendaniel and Russell met while incarcerated at separate prisons, according to the court documents — Russell in federal custody for possessing bombmaking materials and Clendaniel in a Maryland facility for robbing convenience stores with a machete. “Going to prison was worth it because I might not have met you otherwise,” Russell said in one text.
Federal authorities described the alleged plot as “racially motivated.”
Russell is a founder of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group bent on “ushering in the collapse of civilization,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group admires Charles Manson and supports “the idea of lone wolf violence,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.