ORLANDO, Fla. — Clarence Sistak spent most of Friday afternoon wondering what the black car with tinted windows was doing outside his neighbor’s home.
>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<
Through his security cameras, he watched as six or seven other unmarked cars pulled up around dinner time. Armed officers got out and entered the neighbor’s home.
“They were there for two or three hours and they filled a van full of stuff,” Sistak said. “Eventually, they left.”
READ: ‘I don’t know what more we could have done’: sheriff releases video of deputy-involved shooting
The neighborhood collectively concluded it was a drug raid.
On Monday, Sistak’s jaw almost hit the floor when federal prosecutors announced his neighbor, 27-year-old Brandon Russell, and Maryland resident Sarah Beth Clendaniel were arrested and charged for plotting to bring down the Baltimore, MD power grid by attacking several electrical substations almost simultaneously.
Investigators said Russell, a known neo-Nazi leader, had been planning the attack since at least June. They said he posted links to open-source maps, discussed various ways of attacking the poorly-defended structures and described his hopes that his attack would cause a “cascading failure” to further his racially-motivated goals.
READ: Florida boy, 16, accused of stabbing neighbor, 13, more than 100 times pleads guilty to murder
Here's the little bit of the raid recorded off the neighbor's system. The officers were at the home (and blocking the street) for several hours.— Nick Papantonis WFTV (@NPapantonisWFTV) February 6, 2023
Russell faced a federal judge today and is looking at 20 years in prison if convicted. @WFTV pic.twitter.com/D3mPgheAcd
Putting holes in transformers is “The greatest thing somebody can do,” Russell allegedly wrote.
According to prosecutors, Clendaniel said they “would completely destroy this whole city.”
Court records show Russell was previously imprisoned upon the discovery of bomb-making materials inside his home but was released in 2017.
READ: Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine reflects on one-year mark since Russian invasion
If he is convicted on his new charges, he and Clendaniel could each face 20 years in prison.
The vulnerabilities of power substations have been known to power companies, government leaders and extremists for years. While companies have made efforts to add redundancy to the grid recently in the event one substation is attacked, extremists have lately circled around the idea of attacking multiple to cause long-term headaches and, in turn, anarchy.
“Their agenda is to create chaos… which will result in mass violence,” UCF counterterrorism expert Dr. Ted Reynolds said. “We don’t think about the fact that there are over 150,000 people across the country that are on life support systems every day. So you shut off part of a power grid, somebody is going to die.”
READ: Thousands killed by powerful quake in Turkey, Syria; death toll expected to rise
Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.
©2023 Cox Media Group