A Bay Area man was charged Friday with detonating two bombs at Pacific Gas & Electric transformers in San Jose, including one outside a Macy’s store in the Westfield Oakridge Mall, according to an indictment.
San Jose resident Peter Karasev, 36, was charged with nine counts, including two counts of igniting a destructive device, arson, two counts of disrupting power lines and possession of bomb-making materials, according to a complaint filed Friday by the Santa Clara County District Attorney. He was also charged with three counts of child endangerment for allegedly carrying out his illegal activities with three children at home.
At approximately 3:16 a.m. on Jan. 5, San Jose police responded to a report of an explosion in South San Jose that damaged a building and broke the windows of a nearby dental office, the complaint said.
Authorities alerted PG&E because they believed the explosion was caused by a transformer malfunction. Hours later, police were called back when evidence of an explosive device was found.
Surveillance footage showed a person wearing dark clothing and carrying a backpack arriving on a bicycle at the scene at 2:48 a.m., the complaint said. The person placed the backpack on the bottom of a PG&E transformer box and was found to be using an ignition source on the backpack. Then he fled.
Minutes later, the backpack and transformer exploded and burned for several minutes before a major explosion. The incident caused more than $20,000 in damage to the PG&E transformer alone.
PG&E employees who inspected the transformer told officers the damage was from an external explosive device.
PG&E employees also told detectives that there had been a similar transformer explosion on Dec. 8 for the Macy’s in the Westfield Oakridge Mall that caused more than $40,000 in damage. Employees initially thought it was just a transformer failure and the incident was not reported to the police.
Detectives determined that since the two bombings occurred within about three miles of each other around the same time of day and used similar methods, they were likely carried out by the same suspect. The San Jose Bomb Disposal Service also determined that the incidents had “similar visual remnants”.
Additional video surveillance footage also showed the suspect riding the same bike during the mall bombing.
Using geofence tracking technology, police determined that Karasev’s mobile device was present at both locations.
Investigators also found that Karasev had purchased several chemicals related to narcotics production from an online distributor in early 2022.
Karasev was arrested March 1 in the parking lot of his workshop in Foster City by San Jose police officers.
A search of Karasev’s property found dangerous chemicals and crystal methamphetamine, which authorities say Karasev admitted to police that he had taken instead of Adderall due to a shortage of the prescription amphetamine.