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Tesla says journalists snuck into Gigafactory and assaulted its employees

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

A confrontation between Tesla and two trespassing journalists has resulted in felony assault charges. Tesla is publicly sharing its side of the troubling incident, which occurred last Friday, in a blog post published today. According to the company, an employee noticed two people snapping photos of the Gigafactory, Tesla's still-under-construction lithium-ion battery factory, and immediately called for assistance.

The journalists refused to identify themselves once notified that they were illegally trespassing on Tesla property, though Tesla notes that IDs from the Reno Gazette Journal were hanging from their pockets and plainly visible. (Both were later confirmed as RGJ employees, in case you were wondering whether they were merely impersonating journalists.) They also tried to argue that they weren't knowingly trespassing, though Tesla says the only way into the Gigafactory is through a fence with plenty of "private property" warnings.

The journalists were asked to remain at the scene while the local Sheriff's department and more Tesla security responded to the complaint. And that's when things just got downright insane. Here's how Tesla says the events unfolded:

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.

One of the journalists, photographer Andy Barron, is being charged with two counts of felony assault, and both will face trespassing charges. Tesla is understandably livid about the situation, as it would seem these journalists ignored common sense (and the law) in pursuing a scoop on the company's $5 billion battery plant. "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," Tesla said in its blog post. "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."

So far, the Reno Gazette Journal has not sought to discredit or dispute Tesla's version of the story, but says its jeep came away with a shattered driver's side window — said to be smashed with a rock — and slashed seatbelt. For its part, Tesla says the RGJ jeep struck its security ATV and hit another safety manager in the waist before arrests were made. "We take this situation very seriously and it is under investigation at this time," publisher John Maher said in a statement. Barron has worked as a photographer for the company since 1998.