This week Tesla reported two local newspaper employees were caught last Friday trespassing on its Gigafactory construction site, tried to evade, and injured a Tesla security guard with a Jeep.
Whether this was a willful attempt to run Tesla’s employee over, or inadvertent is not clear, but following the “altercation,” Tesla said the driver was arrested after allegedly striking the Tesla employee.
As reported the same day by the Reno Gazette-Journal, the driver was one its photographers, Andy Barron, who has worked for it since 1998. He was charged with “battery with a deadly weapon.”
According to Tesla, the incident ensued after a confrontation by its “safety manager” who approached “two trespassers” which refused to give their identity and denied they were trespassing. They had “RGJ” badges hanging from their pockets, said Tesla, and had climbed through a fence marked “private property.” Their Jeep had the local paper’s decals as well.
Following is how Tesla further described the incident in which it alleged the journalists attempted to flee, then use the Jeep as a deadly weapon:
The two RGJ employees and the Tesla employee were then met at the Jeep by a second safety manager at the Gigafactory. The two Gigafactory safety managers asked the RGJ employees to wait before departing, as security management and the Sheriff’s Department were en route to the scene. Disregarding this request, the RGJ employees entered the Jeep. As the Tesla employee attempted to record the license plate number on the rear bumper, the driver put it in reverse and accelerated into the Tesla employee, knocking him over, causing him to sustain a blow to the left hip, an approximate 2” bleeding laceration to his right forearm, a 3” bleeding laceration to his upper arm, and scrapes on both palms.
As the RGJ employees fled the scene, their Jeep struck the ATV that carried the two safety managers. When one of the safety managers dismounted the ATV and approached the Jeep, the driver of the Jeep accelerated into him, striking him in the waist.
The Sheriff was called, and arrested Barron, the RGJ reported.
Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro confirmed the arrest.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Antinoro as saying Barron had “tried to drive away from guards, and ‘either hit or almost hit one or more of the security officers.’”
“They were stopped at that point in time and detained until my people got there and conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of whoever was driving the vehicle,” Antinoro said.
Following is how the paper continued to report the incident:
Reno Gazette-Journal Publisher John Maher said the newspaper is taking the incident seriously.
“We take this situation very seriously and it is under investigation at this time,” Maher said.
Barron has been a photographer at the Reno Gazette-Journal since 1998.
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.
Antinoro said he couldn’t confirm how that damage occurred.
Antinoro said he didn’t know if the security guards worked directly for Tesla or were employed by a company contracted to work at the site. He said their names were unavailable.
“They did have contract security at one point in time,” Antinoro said. “I was led to believe they were discontinuing the contract security and having their own people.”
A Tesla spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Reno Gazette-Journal has done much original reporting on the massive $5 billion battery plant going up in its backyard.
Tesla implied in its blog post this is not the first time the paper and other journalists have trespassed on its property.
“We appreciate the interest in the Gigafactory, but the repeated acts of trespassing, including by those working for the RGJ, is illegal, dangerous and needs to stop,” said Tesla. “In particular, we will not stand for assaults on our employees and are working with law enforcement to investigate this incident and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
If we learn more, we will report.