APTN National News
Brennon Nastacio is a wanted man.
North Dakota’s Morton County Sheriff’s Department issued a warrant for his arrest earlier this month for allegedly bringing a knife to a confrontation with an assault-rifle wielding security contractor near the Oceti Sakowin camp on Oct. 27—an intense day of clashes between authorities and demonstrators, known as water protectors, trying to slow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Nastacio, 36, said he has no plans to turn himself in to the Sheriff’s Department because his actions that day saved lives.
“I only did what I would assume everybody would do. This guy was coming to camp…with a loaded AR-15 with a 30 round magazine. I only did what was in the best interest of the camp, which was keeping it safe,” said Nastacio, who is from San Felipe Pueblo, New Mexico. “The only thing I told him is to hand over his rifle, to unload his clip…(I) told him nothing would happen to him and I made sure nothing happened to him.”
Nastacio is facing a charge of “terrorizing” for allegedly holding a knife while “walking toward” Kyle Thompson, a security contractor on hire by Dakota Access Pipeline LLC (DAPL), who was brandishing an assault rifle.
Nastacio is currently staying at the Oceti Sakowin camp and spoke to APTN National News over Skype from the area.
As North Dakota law enforcement, backed by the National Guard and troopers from several state and counties, descended on a camp along Hwy 1806 used by water protectors to launch rolling blockades aimed at slowing the pipeline’s construction, Thompson appeared on the scene driving a truck owned by the pipeline company.
Thompson was eventually run off the road by two vehicles belonging to water protectors. He emerged from his truck wielding the assault rifle and wearing a kerchief over his face, resembling a demonstrator.
APTN footage captured the confrontation between Thompson and several water protectors, including Nastacio, who was wearing a fur hat, in shallow water near the Backwater Bridge, which sits a few hundred metres from the Oceti Sakowin camp, the nerve-centre of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline resistance.
Nastacio said he was on his way from dropping off the injured at medical tents in the Oceti Sakowin camp and bringing back sandwiches and water to people on the front lines when he saw the confrontation unfold.
“As I was making my way to the front lines I seen a big ol’crowd of people and I was wondering what was going on,” said Nastacio. “I see a guy with a gun in his hand and what immediately came to my mind was, ‘Where was my son? Where is my nephew?’ Seeing all the women and children out on the bridge, I just only did what I though was right which was to go down and go and deescalate the situation with the guy with the gun. It was pretty scary. He pointed it at me several times. Not only me, but to several other people as well.”
Thompson was eventually handed over to agents with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) who turned him over to the F.B.I. The F.B.I then handed Thompson over to North Dakota state authorities who released him without charge.
Thompson’s DAPL-owned truck was set on fire.
Identification and documents taken from the vehicle revealed Thompson was a security contractor. The documents also showed that Knightsbridge Risk Management, a private security firm with a Springfield, Ohio, address was insured to operate the truck.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose opposition to the pipeline sparked a continent-wide movement, issued a statement shortly after the incident alleging Thompson fired shots from his rifle and that he was disguised as a water protector.
A BIA spokesperson said at the time its agents responded to a report of shots fired.
Thompson denied firing any shots in a statement he posted on Facebook. He claimed he was simply on the scene to inspect company equipment damaged during the day’s events. He also said someone fired a flare gun at him.
Nastacio said the Sheriff’s Department is committing an injustice by issuing a warrant for his arrest while letting Thompson walk away free.
“It kind of makes me mad that they would allow this to happen, a guy with a loaded gun walk into camp,” said Nastacio. “We don’t really know what his intensions were because we deescalated the situation. If we had not done this, there is no telling what this guy would have done.”
For now, Nastacio said he will remain at Oceti Sakowin camp where he has some degree of protection because it sits on federal lands next to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
“I would like to go home and see my family, see my daughter,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t do that right now….Hopefully Morton County will do the right thing and drop all the charges. I don’t think I did anything wrong except save lives.”
The Sheriff’s Department issued a statement saying there were no plans to drop the charges.
“If he turns himself in, he can plead his case in court,” said the statement. “Going public, refuting the charge doesn’t negate the need to follow due process.”
Two other men charged alongside Nastacio, Michael Fasig, 46, and Israel Hernandez, 22, recently surrendered to the Sheriff’s Department. Both men were charged for allegedly running and ramming Thompson off the road.
People still remain at the Oceti Sakowin camp despite a decision earlier this month by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny Energy Transfer Partners, the firm behind the pipeline, an easement to cross beneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River from where the Standing Rock Tribe draws its drinking water.
The remaining water protectors are preparing for the incoming presidency of Donald Trump who will officially take over the White House on Jan. 20, 2017. According to a recording from a presentation by an Energy Transfer Partners official leaked to New York Daily News journalist Shaun King, the Texas-based firm believes Trump will reverse the Corps decision and allow the pipeline to burrow beneath the water.
“Election night changed everything. We are now going into a transition where we are going to have a new president of the United States who gets it. He understands what we are doing here. We fully expect, fully expect, as soon as he’s inaugurated, his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and we’ll begin to cross Lake Oahe,” said the official, reportedly Matthew Ramsey, chief operating officer of Energy Transfer Partners.
Ramsey said in the recording it will take up to 65 days to drill underneath Lake Oahe.