Two journalists allegedly sneaked into Tesla's lithium-ion battery production facility Gigafactory in the US and, when caught, proceeded to repeatedly attack its employees using a car. The incident has resulted in felony assault charges, with Tesla saying this is just the latest in a number of trespassing attempts at its $5m (£3.3m) site, which has been under construction since May 2014.
According to a blog post released by Tesla, the incident occurred on Friday 9 October. Two trespassers were spotted snapping photographs of the Gigafactory site and a Tesla safety manager was sent to investigate. The safety manager requested assistance and the Storey County Sheriff's department was called.
The Tesla employee approached the two trespassers and asked for their names. The trespassers refused to disclose them, but both had ID credentials for the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ) – a daily newspaper for Reno, Nevada – hanging from their pockets.
The two people also denied that they had been trespassing, but Tesla says that it would be impossible to get into the site without climbing through a fence that had "private property" signs attached to it.
Fracas involved a Jeep and an all-terrain vehicle
The two trespassers and the Tesla employee walked over to the vehicle belonging to the trespassers, which was a Jeep clearly marked with RGJ decals. They were met at the car by a second Tesla safety manager and asked to wait as Tesla security personnel and the police were en route to the scene.
At this point, the trespassers decided to get into the Jeep. One of the Tesla employees started recording the car's license plate, and while he was doing so, the driver of the Jeep reversed the car and accelerated into the Tesla employee, knocking him over and 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.
The two safety managers got into an all-terrain vehicle and chased after the two trespassers, and the Jeep struck their vehicle. One of the Tesla employees got off the vehicle and approached the Jeep, and again the driver of the Jeep accelerated into him and hit him in the waist.
According to Tesla, the Sheriff's Department arrived soon after and arrested one of the trespassers for two counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon, while both trespassers were charged with trespassing.
Tesla fed up of repeated trespass attempts
Tesla says that there have been repeated incidents of people trespassing on Gigafactory, and it is not impressed: "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. 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."
The driver of the Jeep has been identified as RGJ photographer Andy Barron. He has been working for the newspaper since 1998.
Interestingly, the Reno Gazette-Journal has not denied or refuted Tesla's statement, but its story on the arrest says that the newspaper's Jeep was damaged in the fracas. A rock was used to shatter the driver-side window, and the driver-side seat belt was cut in half, and the Sheriff was not able to confirm how the damage occurred.
"We take this situation very seriously and it is under investigation at this time," said RGJ publisher John Maher.