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Man charged for alleged involvement in 2 transformer explosions

Attacks on power grids surge across the U.S.
Attacks on power grids surge across the U.S. 04:49

A man has been arrested in California for allegedly blowing up two Pacific Gas and Electric transformers and causing "destruction and harm to public safety." 

Peter Karasev, 36, was identified with cell phone data and video surveillance footage. He made his first court appearance on Friday, Mar. 3, and is being held without bail, according to jail records.

The blasts left about a thousand people without power. 

"Related to the transformer bombings, he's charged with two counts of exploding a destructive device as well as two counts of destroying an electrical line as well as an arson charge," said Deputy District Attorney Victoria Robinson of Santa Clara County.

According to police, the investigation into Karasev began on Jan. 5, when officers with the San Jose Police Department responded to a report of an exploded transformer at 3:16 a.m. local time. Windows were broken at a dental office nearest the transformer. Officers believed it was just a malfunction, but later in the day were summoned back to the scene when "evidence of an explosive device was located." 

Video surveillance reviewed by investigators and officers showed a person, later identified as Karasev, approaching the area on a bicycle while wearing a backpack. The footage showed Karasev place the backpack at the bottom of the transformer box, appear to use an "ignition source," and then get back on the bicycle and ride off. Moments later, the backpack and transformer exploded. The transformer appeared to burn for several minutes before causing a large explosion. 

PG&E employees then told police that a similar incident had occurred on Dec. 8, 2022, when the company was alerted to a power outage at around 4 a.m. local time. That incident was also believed to be a malfunction, but detectives found "very similar details" and "similar visual residue" at both scenes, according to the San Jose Bomb Squad. 

The two sites were about three miles apart. 

The investigation soon led to Karasev. Police identified him using cell phone information. 

During the course of the investigation, investigators also found that Karasev had purchased chemicals from an online distributor twice in 2022. Those chemicals, police said, are associated with the manufacturing of narcotics.

When police served a warrant on Karasev's residence, where he lived with his wife and three children, they found "a large quantity of hazardous chemicals" and "various materials used for making destructive devices." An inactive methamphetamine lab was also found on the property, with finished product. Specialized bomb units from California and other units have responded to the scene. 

Investigators also found an unsecured firearm and the same bike seen in the surveillance footage. 

The investigation at Karasev's home remains ongoing. Robinson said that Karasev has also been charged with "possessing materials with the intent to create a destructive device." 

Karasev is next expected to appear in court on Apr. 26 for a plea hearing. He is being represented by a public defender, according to court records. 

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