It’s one of the world’s biggest construction projects in history, is set to bring hundreds of jobs to the Reno-Sparks area of Nevada, and its completion could mark a turning point in the way our civilization stores and uses energy.
As journalists, we’ve been grateful for the social media love and attention covering the Tesla Gigafactory has brought us. We’re just as excited as most of our readers to see the massive 2,000+ acre facility take shape and ready itself to bring low-cost, high energy density lithium-ion batteries — and thus low-cost, high range electric cars — to market.
Yet the Tesla Gigafactory site near Reno, Nevada isn’t worth trespassing on simply to get an exclusive. Nor is it worth injuring Tesla Staff in the process to try and get away. But that’s exactly what Tesla Motors is accusing two Reno Gazette-Journal employees after an altercation last Friday on the construction site where the Gigafactory will soon stand.
The first we heard about the incident was on Friday night, when the local paper reported that Andy Barron, one of its long-time photographers, had been arrested after an “altercation with private security guards protecting the Tesla gigafactory site.”
Charged by the local Sheriff’s office with battery with a deadly weapon, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Barron had been arrested after the security guards on site attempted to detain him. Barron, who then reportedly tried to drive away from the guards is quoted as having “either hit or almost hit one or more of the security officers,” by the Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro. Sheriff Antinoro then explained that Barron and another RGJ employee 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.”
On Friday, The Reno Gazette-Journal claimed nobody at Tesla Motors was prepared to give a statement concerning the incident, but this morning, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] issued a strongly-worded statement on its company website.
Its version of events are noticeably different to those of the newspaper.
Tesla says around 11:50am last Friday, a Tesla safety manager was given a complaint by another member of staff about two trespassers taking photographs of the Gigafactory from within the bounds of the site itself. Calling the local Sheriff’s department for assistance, the Tesla employee located the two tresspasses and informed them they were trespassing.
At that point, noting the RGJ ID badges hanging from their pockets, the safety manager reports asking both for their names but discovering neither would provide the requested information. Disputing that they were trespassing, their vehicle, a Jeep with RGJ decals on both doors, made it obvious to the Tesla team where they were from.
Here however is where the two stories really diverge. Tesla claims that once back at their Jeep, the RGJ employees tried to escape after being told to wait for the local police to arrive.
“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,” Tesla’s account reads.
“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 statement continues.
In closing, Tesla says that it appreciates the interest in the Gigafactory site, but notes that the continued acts of trespass by individuals keen to get a glimpse of the construction must stop.
“The repeated acts of trespassing, including by those working for the RGJ, is illegal, dangerous, and needs to stop. 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.”
We feel it important at this juncture to note that as a publication, we too have featured flyby videos and photographs of the Gigafactory throughout its construction process. In the case of the Gigafactory, the heavy machinery being used is both a risk to untrained and unauthorised personnel but also a risk to those operating it.
To our knowledge, all of the footage and photographs we’ve featured on the site have been produced either with the expressed permission of Tesla Motors or taken from well outside the Gigafactory limits.
For the record, we do not condone trespassing on private property nor will we feature any content produced as a consequence of trespassing — and we hope other sites follow a similar editorial line too.
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