The Mystery Encyclopedia

Gunmen Attack Electric Substation
– by Mystery Wiki

On April 16, 2013, a sophisticated domestic terror assault was carried out on Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Metcalf Transmission Substation in Coyote, California, near the city of San Jose. The attack, in which gunmen fired on 17 electrical transformers, resulted in more than $15 million worth of equipment damage, but it had little impact on the station’s electrical power supply.

The attack, lasting 19 minutes, was recorded on security footage inside the substation. The video shows sparks hitting off of the fence as terrorists attempt to take the substation offline. The gunmen focused their attack on the cooling radiators used by the transformers. At 1:41 AM, calls came into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office reporting gunfire.

Investigators established that 7.62×39 ammo was used based on shell casings at the scene. This ammo is used by AK 47 semi-automatic rifles. Also, rock piles were found stationed around the substation marking the spot for each shooter.  The security footage also shows a flash of light, most likely a signal for starting the attack and again to end the attack.

Minimal Sheriff’s Department Response

Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at 1:51 am. According to news reports, and letters written by SCCSO first responders, department administration, specifically Undersherrif Hirokawa, failed to provide support to first responders requesting additional support. The investigation began in force over 10 hours later and has produced no results 7 years later.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated this attack was not a terrorist attack despite the coordinated, military precision of the attack.

Why is this a Mystery

Responses to the attack, including statements made by the FBI and the investigation into the attack easily point to a conspiracy. Could the attack have been a black flag operation to attract more federal and state money to securing the power grid? Alternatively, could the attack be from a security firm or provider of security products using such an attack to draw in clients? Last, could the attack be the dry run of a future planned attack? Given the lack of copycat attacks in the preceding 7 years, one would assume that is not the case, or evidence from the attack shows unintended outcomes – such as power redistribution from other substations. 

In a series of coincidences, 2 other events drew our attention to terrorism. The Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15, and the West Fertilizer Company explosion. Initially, the explosion in West, Texas was ruled intentional. The Boston Marathon bombers were Islamic radicals. None of the events are linked; however, media attention shifted drawing focus off of the Metcalf Substation incident.

The attackers focused attention on two points, the cutting of the fiber optics lines and the dismantling of the cooling radiators. Could the attack have been a diversion, or an effort to sink San Jose and Silicon Valley into darkness to provide cover for some other criminal offense? If so, the plan may have failed given that PG&E rerouted power and no power losses occurred.


  • 12:58 a.m. – AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut not far from U.S. Route 101 just outside south San Jose.
  • 1:07 a.m. – Some customers of Level 3 Communications, an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.
  • 1:31 a.m. – A surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.
  • 1:37 a.m. – PG&E received an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence.
  • 1:41 a.m. – Santa Clara County Sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.
  • 1:45 a.m. – The first bank of transformers, riddled with bullet holes and having leaked 52,000 US gallons (200,000 l; 43,000 imp gal) of oil, overheated, whereupon PG&E’s control center about 90 miles (140 km) north received an equipment-failure alarm.
  • 1:50 a.m. – Another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 expended 7.62×39mm cases were later found at the site.
  • 1:51 a.m. – Law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.
  • 3:15 a.m. – A PG&E worker arrived to survey the damage.

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