Attempted copper theft in Pico Rivera leaves suspect critically injured, causes widespread power outage

PICO RIVERA — An alleged would-be copper thief received a 12,000-volt shock and severe burns while attempting to steal wire from a Southern California Edison breaker station over the weekend, authorities said.
Billy Ray Owens, 51, of Whittier was hospitalized in critical condition after he was found unconscious Sunday morning at the utility equipment site in the 9900 block of Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The failed heist also caused a power outage that affected thousands of SCE customers in Pico Rivera and nearby West Whittier for nearly two hours, the lieutenant said.
The outage affected 20,548 SCE customers, SCE spokeswoman Susan Cox said.
A SCE supervisor went to the site to check on an alarm that had been triggered about 4:40 a.m., Smith said.
“When he arrived, he found the suspect semi-conscious, lying on the ground,” Smith said. The suspect, later identified as Owens, suffered severe burns running up his arm.
It was believed Owens was using a pair of bolt cutters which were found nearby to steal copper wiring when he received a 12,000-volt shock, Smith said. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
Burglary charges were expected to be filed when Owens’ condition improves, Smith added.
SCE workers had to de-energize the breaker station for about two hours to allow for the rescue of the injured man and repair of the damaged circuits, officials said. Smith said the incident caused an estimated $45,000 worth of damage to the SCE site.
All power was restored to affected customers by 6:52 a.m., Cox said. The official cause of the outage remained under investigation by SCE officials.

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