The search is on for the gunman who fired at least three shots from a high-powered rifle into a co-op transformer, causing extensive damage that will take months to repair. A $50,000 reward is being offered in the case.
Garkane Energy employees examine the damage to a transformer that was hit by bullets from a high-powered rifle. “In our first estimates we thought we would have to replace the whole transformer at around $1 million,” said Neal Brown, member services and marketing manager at Garkane Energy in Loa, Utah.
“We will be running some tests in the next couple weeks to see if the transformer can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. We will have a better idea of the costs involved after those tests are completed,” Brown said.
Garkane serves 13,000 members, and the shooting left between 8,000 and 9,000 of them without power for some eight hours on Sept. 25. A portable substation, which the co-op had purchased for emergency use, continues to run at the site.
Brown said investigators believe three shots were fired into the transformer. “They shot at one angle and then walked around the side and hit it at another angle,” he said. The shooter apparently stuck the rifle through the holes in the fence surrounding the substation.
The facility is located off U.S. 89 in the rural desert of southern Utah, near the Arizona state line.
“It is visible from the road, but you have to be looking for it,” said Brown. He said the road is largely used by tourists going to and from Lake Powell, and the substation is about an hour in either direction from two towns of about 3,000 people each.
Investigators are hoping someone saw the shooting, which took place at about 12:40 p.m. on a Sunday. Garkane’s board and CEO met the next day and posted a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
“They want to send a strong message that this is serious and not just petty vandalism,” said Brown. “This was a real criminal act.”
Garkane Energy has also decided to put up barriers around its main substations and install cameras.
Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer for NRECA.