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Tesla guards allegedly smashed journalists' car window during Gigafactory incident

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Security guards at Tesla's Gigafactory have been accused of violently confronting two journalists from the Reno Gazette-Journal. Earlier this month, Tesla said two reporters from the publication illegally trespassed on the company's property and reversed their car into an employee, but the RGJ is now disputing the company's characterization of events. "This portrayal is scandalous and could not be further from the truth," wrote RGJ lawyer Scott Glogovac in a letter sent to Tesla and reported by the RGJ itself.

Glogovac claims that the RGJ's reporters, Jason Hidalgo and photographer Andy Barron, had parked the newspaper's Jeep in a "publicly accessible" area overlooking Tesla's factory before getting out of the car to take photos. He says they were then confronted by security guards who demanded Barron's camera and followed the pair back to their Jeep. The guards then allegedly rammed the car with an ATV and forced it to a stop, before one guard jumped on the hood of the car and another smashed the driver's side window with a large rock.

Barron was reportedly taunted by one guard and pushed "face-first in the dirt"

One of the guards is reported to have "displayed" a knife to the pair before reaching through the broken window and severing the seatbelt "near the head of the RGJ driver." Glogovac says that Barron was then dragged out of the car and pushed "face-first in the dirt with a knee or foot in his back," while the guard taunted him, saying: "Now who’s the tough guy?"

"If the hard hat wearing individuals were, as Tesla has represented, Tesla security guards, those individuals were the lawless renegades, not the RGJ staffers," writes Glogovac. "Tesla has already (claimed) that the RGJ employees trespassed on Tesla property, but even if they trespassed, that didn’t give Tesla the right to attempt to detain or apprehend the employees in the manner it did: smashing a window, brandishing a knife, physically manhandling the photographer."

In the RGJ's report of Glogovac's letter, he does not deny that the pair might have been trespassing on private property. Tesla previously stated that the two journalists "climbed through a fence designated with ‘private property’ signs," with the area's Sheriff, Gerald Antinoro, reiterating this statement. The focus of the dispute seems to instead be over the conduct of the journalists and of the guards. Both sides say they were left with scrapes, cuts, and abrasions after the incident.

Tesla says it "will not stand for assaults on employees"

An anonymous Telsa spokesperson told the RGJ that the company was disappointed with Glogovac's letter. "The letter seems designed to condone repeated trespassing and attack victims for seeking to stop the attack on them," wrote the spokesperson. "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 RGJ reports that Barron was originally booked by local police on two felony charges, but no criminal complaint against him has been filed as of Monday afternoon this week. An arraignment hearing is currently scheduled for November 18th.