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Press Release

Meridian Man Sentenced for Destruction of an Energy Facility After Shooting at Two Idaho Power Hydroelectric Power Plants

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Idaho

BOISE – Randy Scott Vail, 59, of Meridian, was sentenced to five years of probation for destruction of an energy facility, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced today.

According to court records, on June 8, 2023, and continuing into June 9, 2023, Vail shot at the Hells Canyon Dam hydroelectric power station and the Brownlee Dam hydroelectric power station causing power loss and substantial damage to both.  The Hells Canyon Dam and the Brownlee Dam are located on the Snake River along the Idaho-Oregon border and were built and are operated by Idaho Power Company.  The dams are essential to electricity production, transmission, and storage in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Specifically, in the late-night hours of June 8, 2023, Vail arrived on the top of Hells Canyon Dam via motorcycle, loaded a rifle with ammunition and discharged the rifle, shooting at the power substations.  As a result, power loss occurred at Hells Canyon Dam.  Approximately one hour later, on June 9, 2023, Vail arrived via motorcycle to the Brownlee Dam.  Vail again loaded a rifle with ammunition and shot at the dam’s power substations.  As a result, large plumes of sparks were visible in the switch yard of the power plant.

Approximately 45 minutes after Vail shot the Brownlee Dam power substations, a sheriff’s deputy encountered Vail on a motorcycle on Highway 71 traveling south towards Cambridge, Idaho.  Law enforcement initiated emergency lights and sirens, but Vail failed to yield and increased speed.  After approximately three miles, Vail yielded to lights and sirens, and he was taken into custody.  During a search and inventory of Vail and the motorcycle, law enforcement located bolt cutters, a guitar case housing two rifles, and live and spent ammunition.  Vail also was carrying two yellow compressed air tanks with gasoline with the pressure gauge missing.

In calls to family members while incarcerated, Vail repeatedly stated that the government is “illegitimate” and that he did not recognize the authority of judges, sheriffs, the Governor, or the federal government.  In Vail’s own words, he wanted to “make a statement” and stated that “we need a revolution or a civil war.”   Based on the investigation, it appears that Vail developed his anti-government ideology, at least in part, after watching and reading online propaganda that discusses anti-government conspiracy theories.

“The defendant’s conduct put at risk our power supply and all aspects of our lives that depend on it,” said U.S. Attorney Hurwit.  “The defendant was motivated by anti-law enforcement and anti-government sentiment.  Now to be clear:  he was prosecuted for his illegal conduct, not his beliefs.  Yet, this case shows that our way of life is threatened when people begin to believe that ideology can somehow justify violence.  It never does.  I am grateful for our local law enforcement partners and the FBI for their work on this case and to Idaho Power for its cooperation.  We will continue to work to protect Idaho’s critical infrastructure and to hold wrongdoers accountable.”

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

Senior U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also sentenced Vail to pay restitution to Idaho Power in the amount of $546,982.46 with the potential for an additional amount to be determined by the Court at a later time.  Vail pleaded guilty to the charge on March 7, 2024.

U.S. Attorney Hurwit commended a host of federal, state, and local partners in both Idaho and Oregon, for their combined efforts on this case.  The partners include the FBI, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Adams County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Meridian Police Department, the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Boise Police Department, and the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather S. Patricco and Erin C. Blackadar prosecuted the case, in collaboration with the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.




Public Information Officer

(208) 334-1211

Updated June 5, 2024