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Ocotillo Wind Employee Arrested After Alleged Threat

Turbines at the Ocotillo Express facility | Photo: Florian Boyd/Flickr/Creative Commons License

An employee of Pattern Energy, the company building the sprawling Ocotillo Express Wind facility in western Imperial County, has been arrested after allegedly threatening a neighbor of the project who has been documenting construction in video. On Tuesday, Imperial County Sheriffs arrested Russell Scott Graham, a construction manager for Pattern Energy's project, after Graham had allegedly confronted and threatened Ocotillo resident and project opponent Parke Ewing at around 11:30 that morning.

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Graham was released on bond later Tuesday.

Ewing provided the East County Magazine with what he described as a recording of the confrontation, which he captured on the audio track of his camera. It's embedded here (NSFW language advisory):

Ewing and several of his neighbors have spent recent months documenting what they say are slipshod construction practices, including lax attention paid to dust control, and have frequently published videos of completed turbines standing idle on days when there's no wind in Ocotillo. Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley told East County Magazine this week that this wasn't the first encounter residents had had with Graham:

The trouble began after Ewing posted a video on his Facebook page showing Graham confronted with questions posed by the photographers while he was giving a tour to visiting Canadians at the wind facility on February 2. A photographer asked "How many houses are being powered today -- none, right?" as the turbines stood silent, not spinning. "Zero. It's been that way for the last two months," the photographer, who resides in Ocotillo, continued, drawing laughter from the tour visitors... According to Pelley, Graham became enraged after viewing the video. A witness who says he overheard Graham threaten bodily harm to Pelley on February 5 tipped the photographers off.

"He [the witness] called me first and said if we don't have it [the video] off by 5:00 [Graham] will be at my front door," Pelley told ECM. According to Pelley, the witness told Pelley that Graham said if the video was not removed, "he will punch you in the throat, breaking both of your elbows."

According to East County Magazine, Ewing alleged that Graham attempted to grab his camera while issuing the threat:

"He reached into my Jeep and tried to steal my camera from my hands... It was quite a struggle."

The Imperial County Sheriff's office has reportedly asked the local District Attorney to charge Graham with attempted robbery in addition to threats of violence.

ReWire has attempted to get a statement from Pattern Energy on Graham's arrest. None has been forthcoming so far, though we'll update readers should Pattern contact us.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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