Vegas solar playground fire was clean energy message

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Colorado dentist accused of arson who damaged a transformer at a solar power plant outside of Las Vegas last week told investigators he wanted to send a message in support of clean energy and denied that his intent was sabotage. , the police said in a statement. arrest report received on Wednesday.

“I burned it,” Mohammed Reza Mesmarian told police detectives during questioning following his January 5 arrest in a trailer parked at a campsite near Lake Mead, a reservoir of the Colorado River outside Las Vegas.

“Mesmarian admitted that he knew that burning the car could damage the (transformer) unit, but stated that he did it for the general message, the bigger picture, the bigger good,” his arrest report says. “He explained that the greater good is pure energy.”

Mohammed Mesmarian appears in court during his arraignment at the Regional Center for Justice on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Mesmarian, 34, remains in jail without bail pending a mental health assessment and court hearing on Feb. 1. If found fit to stand trial, he could face felony, terrorism, arson and other charges that could lead to decades in state prison.

He told police that the fire, which broke out in the early hours of Jan. 4 and damaged Invenergy’s mega-solar array in Chicago, “represents the world moving forward,” the report said.

Mesmarian told police he was in Las Vegas for a few days during the New Year holidays, thought a solar farm about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Las Vegas was a Tesla plant, and he believed a transformer was connected to the “network”. ”

The solar panel provides electricity under contract to several properties on the Las Vegas Strip operated by MGM Resorts International. When Invenergy closed it, the casino company switched to the state’s power grid. A spokesman for MGM Resorts stated that the Strip properties were not affected.

Mesmarian told police that he was born in Iran. His lawyer, Nick Pitaro, said on Wednesday that his client is a US citizen and college graduate. His name is recorded as Mohammad in public records in Colorado. His online professional profile stated that he attended the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado.

Pitaro declined to comment further on Mesmarian’s case pending a hearing on the mental disability case in state court in Las Vegas.

Mesmarian’s arrest in Nevada follows several attacks and arrests related to electrical substations in states including Washington, Oregon and North Carolina, as well as an order by federal regulators to review safety standards on the national transmission grid.

The US Department of Homeland Security has also issued a national terrorism advisory bulletin that lists critical US infrastructure as a potential target for violence.

The charges against Mesmarian bear similarities to the Utah case involving a man arrested in 2016 and later sentenced to federal prison for using a rifle to damage an electrical substation, resulting in a power outage in rural Kane and Garfield counties.

According to court documents, the man, Stephen Plateau McRae, spent months prior to his arrest attacking power facilities in remote areas of Utah and Nevada as part of what he called a “master plan” to shut down power in the West.

McRae told a whistleblower that he was “stopping global warming” and opposed fossil fuels. Court documents said he was planning another act of sabotage—”grandma,” he called it—to disable a large Nevada electrical substation.

In Mesmarian’s case, Las Vegas police found an iPhone linked to Mesmarian and notebooks in a burned-out Toyota Camry registered to his mother, who lives in Idaho.

According to the detention report, CCTV footage showed Mesmarian positioning the car, preparing it for burning, sitting and watching the fire for about 15 minutes before leaving. Mesmarian told police he “felt at peace” and had no regrets.

At this time, there was not a single employee at the huge facility. The damage was discovered after they arrived the next morning.

Mesmarian has also been charged with absconding after police said he twice tried to elude arresting officers. He later told police that he “wanted to experience what Black Lives Matter protesters felt when they were teased by the police.” The police did not report the use of a stun gun on Mesmarian.

Wednesday’s repeated phone calls to Mesmarian’s pediatric dentistry and braces practice in Aurora, Colorado went on a busy signal.

Records show that Mesmarian’s dentist’s license is valid but was restricted last July by the Colorado Dental Board, and that Mesmarian filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on October 5 last year.

U.S. bankruptcy court documents show that he claimed $1.4 million in debt, mostly business debt related to equipment rentals, as well as about $20,000 in student loan debt. He demanded $17,601 in personal assets.

The dental board’s discipline arose from a complaint about “potential unsanitary conditions, including improper disposal of infectious waste and unsealed syringes” at the Mesmariana clinic, dated October 2021.

The board called on Mesmarian to take a refresher course within 12 months. A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Regulators said on Wednesday it was unclear whether he did so. The lawyer who represented Mesmarian in the case said he no longer represented him.

The lawyer who represented Mesmarian in the bankruptcy case did not immediately respond to Associated Press reports.

Top photo: An aerial view of the MGM Mega Solar Array facility in northeast Las Vegas on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 in Las Vegas. Mohammed Mesmarian, who was arrested after what authorities say was a terrorist attack on a solar plant last week in Southern Nevada, is due to stand trial Tuesday in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

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