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Solar power station terrorism suspect found incompetent

Updated February 1, 2023 - 3:22 pm

A 34-year-old man suspected in an attack on a solar power station outside Las Vegas was found incompetent to stand trial Wednesday and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at a state facility.

District Judge Christy Craig ruled that Mohammed “Reza” Mesmarian was not competent and committed him to one of two maximum-security mental health facilities in Nevada “for further treatment and restoration to competency.”

When Craig rendered her decision, Mesmarian stood up and, with a lack of clarity, told the jurist “frustrate African Americans for no … with old laws” before sitting back down beside other defendants in the courtroom.

“It’s routine,” Craig assured the defendant. “It’s OK. It’s routine.”

Sheriff’s deputies then escorted Mesmarian, dressed in blue jail clothes and his arms in chains, out of the room.

Mesmarian, 34, faces six felony charges after authorities said he drove his car through a fence at the MGM Mega Solar Array power station on U.S. Highway 93 about 30 miles north of Las Vegas on Jan. 3 and set his car on fire.

He then left the scene for the Boulder Beach camping ground at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where he took refuge in a travel trailer, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

On Jan. 5, police said, he tried to flee when police pulled in to arrest him at the campground. A search of his Dodge Ram pickup turned up multiple firearms inside, police said.

According to an arrest report, Mesmarian said he tried to escape because he “wanted to experience the feeling of what Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors felt when they were tazed by the police.”

The criminal allegations against him include committing an act of terrorism, two counts of destroying or injuring real or personal property valued at $5,000 or more, two counts of third-degree arson and escape by a felony prisoner.

At a previous hearing in a Las Vegas court, Mesmarian was ushered out following his comments directed at Justice of the Peace Nadia Wood.

“There’s so much wrong in the whole system since I entered here,” he said. “There’s just a bunch of Black people stuck in a room together.”

Craig’s decision on Wednesday was based on evaluations by two psychiatrists who each interviewed Mesmarian and determined he was not competent to understand the charges against him.

Within days, officials are expected to make a decision on whether to send Mesmarian to the Stein Forensic Facility in Las Vegas or the Lake’s Crossing Center in Sparks, Craig said.

Under state law, a defendant must be deemed mentally competent for their criminal case to proceed, but competency may be restored after the person receives treatment and doctors assure the court that the individual is well enough to comprehend the charges they face and communicate with their defense lawyer.

During the hearing, Mesmarian’s attorney, Nick Pitaro, expressed concerns that he had been unable to arrange for Mesmarian to receive mental health treatment medications despite many inquiries at the Clark County Detention Center, where the defendant has been housed since his arrest.

Craig replied that her order permits Pitaro to speak directly to Mesmarian’s doctors and access his records while authorities figure out where to send him.

“In that intervening time, they’ll be making decisions about which facility is the most appropriate placement, and if you want you can ask and they can tell you all the things they look at to make that decision,” she said.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter.