MORTON COUNTY, N.D. - A security guard for Dakota Access Pipeline with an assault rifle in his work truck was removed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs Thursday, Oct. 27, after a standoff with pipeline opponents.
The incident occurred late in the afternoon when tensions were high and many of the protesters were heading back to their main camp after an hours-long confrontation with law enforcement.
B.J. Kidder, a Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member, said he observed a white pickup with no license plates on County Road 134 and got out of his vehicle to see what the person was up to.
Kidder said he saw an AR-15 rifle in the passenger seat and a 30-round clip in the middle console of the truck, which was heading toward Highway 1806 where many people were traveling to the Oceti Sakowin camp. Kidder said he reached into the open window to grab the gun and the vehicle took off, hurting his shoulder.
The truck then turned south onto Highway 1806 and was driving fast and recklessly, nearly striking pedestrians on the side of the road.
Kidder said he started yelling that the man had a gun and notified camp security volunteers. One eyewitness said the man was driving with his left hand and holding the gun in his right hand.
Gina Magana, who was walking south on the highway, said she was almost struck by the pickup. An SUV then drove the pickup off the road and the man got out of the vehicle and entered the water near the Backwater Bridge.
A group of the self-described water protectors followed the man into the water, as seen in video posted online. At one time, the man pointed the rifle at people, but the men were able to calm him down, said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.
"They did a great job of de-escalating him," Goldtooth said.
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Magana said she stayed and watched the scene unfold for about an hour until the Bureau of Indian Affairs removed the man.
"I think his intentions were to hurt us," said Magana of Houston.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said the man, contracted to work security by the pipeline company, had the gun "more or less in self-defense."
Most witnesses said no shots were fired, but there were conflicting eyewitness reports. Kirchmeier said authorities can't confirm that a shooting occurred.
Though the incident occurred in Morton County and not on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where the BIA has jurisdiction, Kirchmeier said the BIA was asked to respond because other law enforcement couldn't get to the area due to protesters blocking the road. The FBI was investigating but turned the case over to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
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No one was in custody for the incident, Kirchmeier said.
Members of the pipeline resistance camp found the man's DAPL security badge in his truck and documentation showing the truck was insured by Dakota Access LLC.
Authorities believe a flare gun had been shot into the pickup on County Road 134, and the pickup was then started on fire, Kirchmeier said.
Dakota Access security officers have clashed with protesters before, including Sept. 3 when security workers used guard dogs and pepper spray against people who trespassed in a pipeline construction zone. The dog handlers were determined to not be licensed to provide security in North Dakota. The Morton County Sheriff's Department recently forwarded results of their investigation to prosecutors and the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board for possible charges or other penalties.