Tesla has accused two journalists from the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ) of trespassing on its Gigafactory grounds in Nevada last Friday. As the pair tried to make their escape, Tesla says they drove their Jeep into two members of staff and injured them.
The Storey County, Nevada, Sheriff's Department arrested one of the RGJ employees, photographer Andy Barron, for two counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon. The department will also charge both the journalists with trespassing.
According to a blog post from Tesla, one of the safety managers at the Gigafactory site – which is still under construction – was responding to reports that two journalists were trespassing on the property. The manager asked the pair for their names but they refused to identify themselves, even though they were wearing RGJ press badges and their jeep clearly had RGJ logos on the doors. The duo proceeded to deny that they were trespassing, despite the fact they had climbed through a fence sporting a ‘private property’ sign.
The blog goes on to say that the three people went back to the journalists' jeep where they were joined by another safety manager and asked to wait until the sheriff’s department arrived. As one of the safety staff tried to record the license plate off the rear bumper of the car, Barron is alleged to have put the jeep into reverse and accelerated, knocking the Tesla employee over.
Tesla says that as the two journalists attempted to escape the scene, their jeep struck an ATV that carried the two safety managers. When one of them dismounted the ATV and approached the vehicle, the jeep driver drove straight at him, striking him in the waist.
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal’s own report of the incident, "the newspaper’s vehicle was damaged in the altercation. A rock had been used to shatter the driver’s-side window and the driver’s-side seat belt had been cut in half.” Barron was arrested following an on-the-scene investigation by police.
Tesla wrote that persistent trespassing onto its Gigafactory site, often by RGJ employees, is illegal, dangerous and needs to stop. It has promised to work with law enforcement to investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. A representative for the Storey County Sheriff's Office said that Barron, who has worked for RGJ since 1998, was held on $30,000 bail and is no longer in custody.