Authorities: Man with gun near protest camp was 'victim,' won't be charged

MANDAN, N.D. - The Morton County Sheriff's Department said it will not file charges against a man who pulled a rifle from his pickup truck as he was confronted by Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Thursday, providing a description of events that ...

MANDAN, N.D. – The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said it will not file charges against a man who pulled a rifle from his pickup truck as he was confronted by Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Thursday, providing a description of events that differed from the one shared by protesters.

A department news release issued Tuesday, Nov. 1, said the man was instructed to get pictures of construction equipment parked east of Highway 1806 and had disguised himself so he wouldn’t be singled out as a construction worker on a day when authorities arrested 141 people as they evicted protesters from property owned by the pipeline company.

The man told authorities he heard people gathered outside the construction entrance telling him to leave and then to stop. As he left the area south on Highway 1806, another vehicle deliberately hit him, forcing his pickup through a fence and causing it to get stuck near the Backwater Bridge just north of the main protest camp, the release stated.

“The victim saw five individuals coming at his truck and could see large knives in their possession. The man grabbed a rifle to defend himself, he retreated toward the Cannonball River and was pursued. During this time, the victim’s vehicle was also set on fire,” the release stated.

Someone in the crowd had an orange flare gun, and investigators saw video of someone shooting a flare in the man’s direction, the release stated.

“The victim had a gun however no shots were identified as being fired from his weapon,” the release stated.

The “victim,” Kyle Thompson of Bismarck, posted on Facebook Sunday that he “was in a situation in which myself and others were faced with the difficult decision to take another's life or not.” He wrote that he “was asked if I could get pictures of some equipment that was on fire so I attempted to go and do just that, nothing more nothing less.” His post was consistent with the version of events authorities released Tuesday.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said the man worked for Leighton Security, a Texas firm that was contracted to protect pipeline equipment.

Private security firms had been advised to stay away from the area that law enforcement was working to remove protesters, including Highway 1806 and private property where people had camped, Kirchmeier said.

“We advised that we didn’t want any of their security people in the area,” he said.

Tuesday’s news release does not identify Thompson by name or describe the man as a security worker.

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Although the news release said the man will not face charges, Kirchmeier emphasized Tuesday it’s still an ongoing investigation.

Pipeline opponents gave a different version of events last week, with some saying they believed the armed man intended to hurt them.

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.

The truck then turned south onto Highway 1806 and was driving fast and recklessly, nearly striking pedestrians on the side of the road, witnesses said.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs responded to the incident and detained the man, who was turned over to law enforcement, questioned and released.

“No charges will be filed against this man as he was using the weapon to protect himself,” the sheriff’s department said.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier said Saturday he was seeking a full report from the BIA on what occurred and said he thought the man should be charged with attempted murder for pointing the rifle at people.