A man is facing terrorism-related charges after he allegedly rammed his car through a gate at a solar power plant near Las Vegas, setting the car on fire, and disabling the facility, according to police.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said its Counter Terrorism division identified the suspect as 34-year-old Mohammed Mesmarian, reported local media outlets.
Mesmarian was taken to the Clark County Detention Center and was charged with committing an act of terrorism, first-degree arson, third-degree arson, destroying or injuring real or personal property, and escape by a felony prisoner, police told local outlets.
“Mesmarian clarified he burned the Toyota Camry a couple of days ago,” Las Vegas Police said, 8NewsNow reported. “Mesmarian [said] he burned the vehicle at a Tesla solar plant and did it ‘for the future.’”
An employee at the facility told the outlet that the fire caused “major damage,” estimating that it would take two years to receive replacement parts. The damaged unit was shut down and isn’t producing electricity at this time, officials told the outlet.
Investigators told the channel that they believe Mesmarian siphoned gasoline from his vehicle and placed gas on wires at the transformer before setting them on fire. Security camera footage was also released, allegedly showing the suspect lighting his car on fire near the transformer.
Damage was done to the Mega Solar Array facility, which provides power to MGM properties, including its hotels.
“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,” a spokesperson for Invenergy, which manages the plant, told the outlet. “No one was injured, and we are currently restoring the facility’s full operations.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Invenergy for comment.
While there have been several attacks on power plants and substations in recent weeks, the Vegas attack has not garnered any major mainstream media coverage as of Sunday morning. Last week, officials in Washington state confirmed they arrested two men for several attacks on power substations near Tacoma, although the two were not charged with terrorism-related counts.
Matthew Greenwood and Jeremy Crahan were scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on charges of conspiracy to damage energy facilities and possession of unregistered firearms, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Authorities said that the two men wanted to knock out power to the area to commit a burglary targeting a local business, according to charging documents.
“While the power was out, after the Graham and South Hill attacks, the two went to a local business, Crahan drilled out a lock, and Greenwood entered to steal from the cash register,” agents wrote in charging documents last week filed in the Western Washington U.S. District Court.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told USA Today that their motive appeared to be for monetary gain but did not rule out terror-related charges. “We just don’t know that yet,” Langlie said.
The two men were known to authorities, and had been under FBI surveillance for more than a month in late 2021 and early 2022, FBI special agent Mark Tucher said in an affidavit filed in federal court on Tuesday. The agent did not give reasons for that surveillance, but Tucher described himself in the affidavit as an expert in domestic terrorism assigned to the FBI Seattle division’s joint terrorism task force.
According to Tucher’s affidavit, investigators believe that the men cut fencing leading to four power stations in Pierce County, Washington, operated by Puget Sound Energy and Tacoma Power.
They then tampered with the equipment, knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses, the affidavit alleged. Greenwood and Crahan were arrested on Saturday, the affidavit said.
In December, a utility in North Carolina reported outages from what local authorities said were orchestrated shootings now being investigated by federal law enforcement. The FBI has also been investigating shots fired near a power facility in South Carolina days later.
No arrests have been made in connection to the incidents reported in North and South Carolina.
And last year, an explosion was reported at the Hoover Dam, located about 30 minutes southeast of Las Vegas. That blast and explosion, authorities said, was caused by a transformer fire.
Reuters contributed to this report.