A lawyer for the Reno Gazette-Journal says one of the newspaper's photographers was attacked by Tesla Motors security guards before he was arrested for trespassing and battery. Tesla says the photographer and a reporter were trespassing Tesla's battery gigafactory site in Storey County, Nevada on Oct. 9 and injured two security guards with their vehicle when they tried to flee.
In a letter to Tesla on Monday, Reno attorney Scott Glogovac said the security guards rammed the newspaper's vehicle with an ATV, smashed a car window with a rock and cut photographer Andy Barron from his seat belt with a knife before forcing him to the ground.
Storey County deputies arrested Barron and booked him into the county jail on one misdemeanor trespassing count and two felony battery counts. Barron, who has worked for the newspaper since 1998, posted $30,000 bail and was released later that day. He's scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 18.
Tesla issued the following statement to NBC Bay Area Tuesday: "It’s disappointing to see that instead of taking appropriate action and investigating this serious incident as RGJ stated they would, RGJ has instead employed outside counsel to leak threatening letters to the press. The letter seems designed to condone repeated trespassing and attack victims for seeking to stop the attack on them. We will not stand for assaults on our employees and are working with law enforcement to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
The Reno Gazette-Journal identified the second staffer on its website Monday night as Jason Hildago, a reporter who covers Tesla.
Tesla offered a very different account of the events on its blog Oct. 13. It said two Tesla security guards at the park where the electric car-maker is building its gigafactory asked the trespassers to wait at the scene until sheriff's deputies arrived, but they refused and entered a Jeep with RGJ decals.
"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,'' cuts to his arms and scraped hands, Tesla said.
As the RGJ employees fled, their Jeep struck the ATV with the two security guards, Tesla said. "When one of the safety mangers dismounted the ATV and approached the Jeep, the driver of the Jeep accelerated into him, striking him in the waist.''
Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes said Tuesday the newspaper staffers had to climb through a fence clearly marked with a no trespassing sign.
Glogovac said Tesla's portrayal "could not be further from the truth.''
The journalists parked their vehicle in a publicly accessible area and walked up an old road to a ridge top "high above and significantly far from the construction area,'' he said.
They were approached by a man who accused them of trespassing and demanded their photo equipment, Glogovac said. He said they started to leave, but their path was blocked by an unmarked vehicle.
When they steered around it, another man in an ATV "began ramming the side of the RGJ vehicle before pulling in front of it and forcing it to stop,'' Glogovac said. He said one guard pounded on the hood and jumped on it before another shattered the driver's door window with a large rock, then cut the driver's seatbelt.
"The driver was then forcibly removed from the vehicle and planted face-first in the dirt with a knee or foot in his back,'' Glogovac said.