RENO, Nev. – Storey County prosecutors have charged a Reno Gazette-Journal photographer with misdemeanour counts of trespassing and battery, and a reporter with misdemeanour trespassing after an altercation with two Tesla Motors security guards at an industrial park east of Sparks.
The newspaper’s lawyer says the journalists were trying to leave the area when they were attacked by two guards on Oct. 9.
Photographer Andy Barron initially was booked on one trespassing count and two counts of felony battery with a deadly weapon after the guards told investigators he drove a Jeep into them, causing minor injuries to both.
District Attorney Anne Langer reduced the felony charges to misdemeanour battery counts when she filed the formal criminal complaint Wednesday in Justice Court in Virginia City. The complaint said the crimes occurred “at or near” the Tesla battery factory under construction at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.
Deputy Ken Quirk wrote in his police report made public for the first time that Barron drove the Jeep “with a wanton disregard for life and property.”
Barron’s lawyer, John Arrascada, told the newspaper he intends to plead not guilty. The reporter, Jason Hidalgo, declined comment.
A pretrial conference is scheduled Feb. 4.
Tesla spokeswoman Ricardo Reyes said earlier the journalists had been warned about trespassing before.
“We are pleased that the district attorney has taken quick action and is pursuing justice for Tesla employees who were assaulted by RGJ employees trespassing on private property,” he said in an email Friday.
Scott Glogovac, a Reno lawyer representing the newspaper, said in an Oct. 19 letter to Tesla that the guards rammed the newspaper’s vehicle with an ATV, smashed a car window with a rock and cut Barron from his seat belt with a knife before throwing him to the ground.
Deputy Quirk said when he asked the two guards, Mike Ochs of Fernley and Ian Langtry of Reno, why they acted in the way they did that Ochs stated he feared for their safety and “determined that Barron’s reckless action needed to be stopped.”
Both journalists told the deputy the guards were overly aggressive, demanded they delete their photos and eventually rammed their Jeep with an ATV.
Quirk said Barron told him that Ochs “scared him so he was trying to get away,” didn’t see Langrty behind the Jeep and didn’t know he struck him. Quirk said Barron claimed he didn’t know they were on private property but Hidalgo admitted both wilfully trespassed “to get closer for better pictures.”