Police: Suspect from Idaho scoped out Nevada power-generating site
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A man is facing terror-related charges after police said he rammed his car through a gate at a solar plant outside Las Vegas and set his car on fire, disabling the huge facility, the 8 News Now Investigators have learned.
Around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Las Vegas Metro police responded to the solar plant on U.S. 93 north of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, sources told the 8 News Now Investigators. Employees at the plant said they found a car smoldering in a generator pit.
The Mega Solar Array facility provides energy to MGM properties but is run by a company called Invenergy.
The driver, later identified as Mohammad Mesmarian, 34, is accused of ramming through a fence and setting the car on fire. The car is registered out of Idaho, documents said.
Police suspect Mesmarian drove through the fence Tuesday afternoon after employees had left for the day. It was not until 12 a.m. Wednesday when video reportedly shows Mesmarian setting the car on fire, documents said.
Mesmarian reportedly watched the car burn, sitting in a chair for about 15 minutes before walking off, documents said.
Investigators also believe Mesmarian siphoned gasoline from his car to put on wires at the transformer, documents the 8 News Now Investigators obtained said.
Investigators found an iPhone in the burnt car with an account connected to Mesmarian, documents said. Police also found two laptops.
Police located Mesmarian at a campground Thursday — a day after the fire — in Boulder Beach at Lake Mead. It was unclear how Mesmarian made it from the solar site to Boulder City, a 30-mile drive.
“Mesmarian clarified he burned the Toyota Camry a couple of days ago,” police said. “Mesmarian stayed he burned the vehicle at a Tesla solar plant and did it ‘for the future.’”
Metro police said a person from Republic Services, which is near the solar plant, called police earlier on Wednesday about a person who was trespassing, documents said.
Police noted numerous recent attacks on power infrastructure in recent months.
Mesmarian faces charges of committing an act of terrorism, arson, destroying or injuring real or personal property of another and escape by a felony prisoner.
No MGM facility was impacted by the incident.
An employee at the plant said the fire caused “major damage,” estimating it would take two years to receive replacement parts, police said. The damaged unit remained shut down due to the fire and the plant was not producing electricity, police said.
“Following an incident at the Mega Solar Array facility, on-site personnel immediately notified authorities and shut down the plant’s operations as a precaution in accordance with industry-standard safety protocols,” an Invenergy spokesperson said, “No one was injured, and we are currently restoring the facility’s full operations.”
Court officials said Mesmarian was disruptive before his first court appearance Friday. He did not appear for the hearing. Judge Danial Westmeyer denied bail.
Mesmarian was due in court Tuesday.