79°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

No terrorism found so far in Nye cell tower inquiry

Updated May 12, 2020 - 8:35 am

An investigation into the downing of a Nye County cellphone tower has found no evidence linking the vandalism to conspiracy theory-driven attacks on communications infrastructure, but authorities aren’t ruling it out.

The tower was found toppled May 5 in the area of Gamebird and South Blagg roads in Pahrump, prompting an investigation by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Boruchowitz said authorities are still working to try to identify suspects in the case.

“There is no question that the tower was taken down as an intentional act,” Boruchowitz said. “At this time there is no suspect information, and detectives continue to investigate.”

The vandalism has prompted speculation, much of it on social media, contending the vandalism in Nye County could somehow be tied to a string of arson attacks on cellphone towers across Europe. The Associated Press reports that a conspiracy theory linking new 5G mobile networks to the COVID-19 pandemic is fueling arson on cellphone towers in England and elsewhere.

“Detectives are aware of the internet conspiracy theories, but at this time there is no indication of an ideological component to the crime,” Boruchowitz said.

50 reports worldwide

The AP reported in April that some 50 fires targeting cell towers and other equipment have been reported in Britain, leading to three arrests. Telecom engineers have been abused on the job 80 times, according to trade group Mobile UK, making the U.K. the nucleus of the attacks. Photos and videos documenting the attacks are often overlaid with false commentary about COVID-19. Some 16 have been torched in the Netherlands, with attacks also reported in Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium.

Posts threatening to attack phone masts were receiving likes on Facebook. One post in an anti-vaccine group on April 12 shared a photo of a burned phone mast with the quote, “Nobody wants cancer & covid19. Stop trying to make it happen or every pole and mobile store will end up like this one.”

Boruchowitz said in an email to the Review-Journal that “all possibilities are being considered, but at this time there is no evidence related to the crime that leads towards terrorism or any other motive.”

The sheriff’s office is the lead agency on the investigation. The FBI is assisting. The antenna structure registration for the tower in Pahrump shows licensing and usage of the tower is owned by an entity known as Cellco Partnership, which Bloomberg says does business as Verizon Wireless. As of May 5 the tower was listed as dismantled.

Owner plans to rebuild

The physical tower is owned by American Tower Company.

“We are planning to rebuild the site. In the interim, to assist customers who had equipment on the tower, we are working with them to install a temporary cell on wheels so that service continues,” said Matt Peterson, vice president of communications for American Tower.

A statement issued by Verizon regarding the Nye County tower said Verizon leased space on the tower for wireless facility (cell site) equipment.

“Since the tower was destroyed … we have made adjustments to cell sites in the surrounding area to make up for much of the lost coverage, so the customer impact is minimal,” said Rich Young, spokesman for Verizon. “We are working on a temporary solution that will compensate until the site can be rebuilt.”

Rise Broadband, a wireless internet provider, also operates on the tower. Richard Abels of Abels Communication Company said Rise leased a spot for its equipment on the downed tower. Rise did not have 5G equipment on it, but someone else may have.

“This is the first time Rise has had any of its equipment vandalized in this way,” Abels said.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
Search continues for homicide suspects - Video
In October 2017, 62-year-old David Rathbun was reported missing by family members and later found deceased in Arizona. The Las Vegas police homicide section is asking for the public’s assistance in locating 55-year-old Charles Ausiello and 45-year-old Jolene Hibbs who are suspects in Rathbun’s death. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two men were stabbed Thursday morning at a central Las Vegas home - Video
Two men were stabbed at a central Las Vegas home, Thursday morning, May 21, leaving both with life-threatening injuries. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Cellphone tower destroyed In Nye County - Video
The Nye County Sheriff's Office is investigating a cellphone tower being destroyed in Pahrump. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Shots Fired in Downtown Las Vegas
Police reported that they were investigating a shooting in which a suspect fired a weapon at officers on Fremont Street on Monday, May 4, 2020.
Police briefing on officer-involved shooting northeast of Las Vegas - VIDEO
Metro Police Department Capt. Nichole Splinter gives a briefing from the scene of an officer-involved shooting at Apex Road and Interstate 15, northeast of Las Vegas, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police ID man killed in officer-involved shooting - VIDEO
A 24-year-old man with a sawed-off shotgun was shot dead by Las Vegas police in front of a red car the man allegedly tried to steal toward the end of car a chase Tuesday with speeds of more than 100 mph through multiple areas of the valley. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police are investigating a homicide
Las Vegas police are investigating a homicide after a man was found deceased in the parking lot of a strip mall at 9640 W. Tropicana Ave. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Homicide briefing
Las Vegas police investigate a homicide in southwest Las Vegas. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate homicide
Las Vegas police investigate a homicide in southwest Las Vegas. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate officer-involved shooting in east valley - VIDEO
Las Vegas police on Tuesday were investigating an officer-involved shooting in the east valley. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye county detective returns home from hospital - VIDEO
A Nye County Sheriff’s Office detective who was shot in March was released from the hospital Wednesday and is recovering at home with family. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Metro officer arrested for allegedly stealing from K-9 charity
An officer with the Metropolitan Police Department for more than two decades was arrested by the agency on Friday and booked into jail on suspicion of stealing thousands of dollars from a Las Vegas police foundation.
Police investigate shooting in northwest Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating a shooting in the Desert Shores community, near Lake Mead and Rampart boulevards, on Thursday, April 9, 2010. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pahrump man accused of killing roommate in fight over drugs - VIDEO
A Pahrump man was arrested Saturday after the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said he killed his roommate during a fight over drugs. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Las Vegas Strip hotels to honor slain trooper Thursday night - VIDEO
A tribute to honor the life of slain Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Jenkins is scheduled for Thursday night on the Strip. (James Schaeffer and Chase Stevens / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek help in identifying central valley robbery suspect - VIDEO
(LVMPD)
Police investigate apparent murder-suicide
Las Vegas police investigate an apparent murder-suicide in the 3900 block of Chasing Heart Way on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slain NHP trooper escorted by hundreds of police cars to coroner’s office - VIDEO
Law enforcement vehicles escorted Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Benjamin Jenkins’ body as it was driven to the Clark County coroner’s office Friday night. (James Schaeffer and Le'Andre Fox / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigating after man found shot on street in Henderson - VIDEO
A 22-year-old man was found shot to death on a residential street in Henderson on Friday afternoon, police said. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Highway Patrol Fatal Shooting of Trooper - VIDEO
Nevada Highway Patrol press conference on the incident involving a trooper who was shot and killed during a traffic stop Friday morning.
Las Vegas police investigate after man's body found in park - VIDEO
Lt. Ray Spencer briefs the media about a possible homicide at Silverado Ranch Park on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Clark County sheriff, DA talk about crime during coronavirus crisis - VIDEO
The latest on crime and police response during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the takeaways from Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. (Renee Summerour and MIchael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Juvenile shot, injured by Las Vegas police in east valley - VIDEO
A Las Vegas police officer shot a juvenile Friday night in the east valley, the Metropolitan Police Department said. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Armed robbery in central Las Vegas - VIDEO
Surveillance video of a March 12, 2020, armed robbery at a business in the 800 block of North Decatur Boulevard (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Man gets 30 years to life in Las Vegas rape and murder - VIDEO
Charles Talley, who was convicted of rape and murder, tried to blame the 2018 death of Kelly Deanne Kazoon, 55, on a seizure as he was sentenced to prison Thursday, March 5, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seeking woman in connection with armed robbery - VIDEO
(James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Woman was sentenced to life in prison for helping kill a disabled man - VIDEO
On Monday, March 2, District Judge Michelle Leavitt ordered Jennifer Mustachia to serve life behind bars without the possibility of parole for the slaying of 47-year-old Edward Turner inside his east valley home in 2015. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST