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 at the Westfield Oakridge Mall, according to a criminal complaint.
San Jose resident Peter Karasev, 36, was charged with nine counts, including two counts of igniting a destructive device, arson, two counts of interfering with electrical lines and possessing bomb-making materials, according to a complaint filed Friday by the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office. He was also charged with three counts of child endangerment for allegedly conducting his illegal activities with three children at home.
On Jan. 5 at about 3:16 a.m., 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, according to the complaint.
Authorities alerted PG&E because they believed the explosion was caused by a transformer malfunction. Hours later, police were called back to the scene when evidence of an explosive device was found.
Surveillance video showed a person wearing dark clothing and a backpack arriving by bicycle at the scene at 2:48 a.m., according to the complaint. The person placed the backpack at the bottom of a PG&E transformer box and appeared to use an ignition source on the backpack. He then fled the scene.
Minutes later, the backpack and transformer exploded and burned for several minutes before there was a large blast. The incident caused more than $20,000 in damage to the PG&E transformer alone.
PG&E employees who inspected the transformer told officers that the damage had resulted from an external explosive device.
PG&E employees also told detectives there had been a similar transformer explosion on Dec. 8 in front of the Macy’s at the Westfield Oakridge Mall that caused more than $40,000 in damage. Employees initially believed that it was simply a transformer malfunction and the incident was not reported to police.
Detectives determined that since the two bombings occurred around the same time of day within about three miles of each other and involved similar methods, they were likely carried out by the same suspect. The San Jose bomb squad also determined that the incidents had “similar visual residue.”
Additional video surveillance footage also showed the suspect riding the same bike at the mall bombing.
Using geofence tracking technology, police determined that a mobile device belonging to Karasev was present at both locations.
Detectives also discovered that Karasev had purchased several chemicals associated with manufacturing narcotics from an online distributor in early 2022.
Karasev was arrested March 1 in the parking lot of his Foster City workplace by San Jose police officers.
A search of Karasev’s property found hazardous chemicals and crystal methamphetamine, which authorities say Karasev admitted to police that he took instead of Adderall because of a shortage of the prescription amphetamine.