Video shows copper wire being stolen from 2 substations in Morganton; warrant issued

MORGANTON, N.C. — Investigators are searching for a man accused of breaking into power substations in Morganton, causing $40,000 in damage.

Surveillance video from one of those sites shows the suspect using bolt cutters to cut copper wiring.

Police in Morganton said they were called to West Parker Road at Old Shelby Road for a damage to property and larceny call. When they arrived, officers saw that someone had broken into an electrical substation owned by the City of Morganton.

Electric employees found that copper wire had been cut and stolen from the substation, leaving behind significant damage. The wiring is used to ground the equipment.

Investigators said the suspect cut some of the fencing to get inside -- and it all happened in broad daylight. Cars were passing by.

Brooks Kirby is the electrical services director in Morganton. He said power could have been knocked out and the suspect killed, and all over a few hundred dollars of stolen copper.

“It’s very, very dangerous to do so,” Kirby said. “They can cause an outage, besides themselves, get killed. Cause power losses to hospitals, homes, factories and restaurants.”

Later in the investigation, authorities found that a nearby substation owned by Duke Energy was also similarly damaged. Police said it happened just hours after the first break-in and involved the same suspect, who has a Mohawk haircut.

“Thieves are a lot like electricity, they will follow the path of least resistance,” said Morganton Public Safety Chief Jason Whisnant. “And in this case here, he found a point to force entry. Really, really gambling with his own life.”

Investigators gathered surveillance video from the scene and posted several pictures on social media to help identify the suspect. Detectives took out felony warrants for Terry Pittman for cutting, mutilating, defacing, or otherwise injuring property to obtain nonferrous metals.

It’s estimated that the cost to repair the substations will total $40,000.

Janet Cook lives nearby and hopes he’s caught soon. She said her sister relies on oxygen and needs her power to stay on.

“I don’t know why people are doing something like that. It’s just mean, evil doing something like that,” Cook said.

Police asked that anyone who sees suspicious activity in or around substations report it to authorities by calling public safety at 828-437-1211.

North Carolina will soon be cracking down on people who vandalize and attack power stations.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Protect Critical Infrastructure bill into law last month. The bill increases the punishment for people who commit crimes against utilities. It’s in response to the attack at Moore County substations that left tens of thousands without power for days.

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