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A Man in Southern Idaho Was Given a Sentence for Destroying an Energy Facility After Shooting at Idaho Power Hydroelectric Plants


BOISE—Randy Scott Vail, 59, of Meridian was given five years of probation today for destroying an energy plant, according to U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwitz.

According to court records, Vail shot at the Hells Canyon Dam and Brownlee Dam hydroelectric power stations on June 8 and 9, 2023. This caused the power to go out and did a lot of harm. These dams, which are on the Snake River near the border between Idaho and Oregon, are very important for making, sending, and storing energy in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Vail drove his motorcycle to the top of Hells Canyon Dam on the night of June 8, 2023, loaded a gun, and shot at the power substations, cutting off the power. After about an hour, he went to Brownlee Dam and shot at the power substations again, this time making sparks that could be seen in the switchyard.

A sheriff’s officer saw Vail on Highway 71 about 45 minutes after the second attack. Vail was finally caught, even though he tried to escape at first. When his motorcycle was searched, bolt cutters, a guitar case with two rifles inside, and ammo were found. He also had gasoline in two compressed air tanks.

In talks to his family while he was in jail, Vail spoke out against the government, calling it “illegitimate” and calling for a “revolution or a civil war.” His ideas seemed to have been shaped by online anti-government lies.

U.S. Attorney Hurwit stressed that Vail’s actions were dangerous for the town and the power supply. “The defendant’s conduct put at risk our power supply and all aspects of our lives that depend on it,” said Hurwitz. “He was charged with a crime for what he did, not what he believed.” Still, this case shows that our way of life is in danger when people think that philosophy can make violence okay in some way. It doesn’t ever.”

Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the FBI office in Salt Lake City talked about how bad the damage could be. “The citizens of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington rely on this infrastructure, and the damage potentially could have been catastrophic,” said Sinha. “The FBI and our partners will work diligently to identify, arrest, and hold accountable those who use violence to further ideology.”

Assistant Senior U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill told Vail to repay Idaho Power $546,982.46 and said that other numbers might be decided later. Vail said he was guilty on March 7, 2024.

In this case, U.S. Attorney Hurwit praised the work of many federal, state, and local partners in Idaho and Oregon. The FBI, the sheriff’s offices in Washington County and Adams County, the Meridian and Boise police departments, and different district attorneys’ offices in both states were among them. The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather S. Patricco and Erin C. Blackadar, as well as the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.

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