Three accused of endangering pipeline worker at Backwater Bridge
CANNON BALL -- Three men are accused of endangering the life of a pipeline worker as protesters were cleared from a northern "front line" camp on Oct. 27.
CANNON BALL - Three men are accused of endangering the life of a pipeline worker as protesters were cleared from a northern "front line" camp on Oct. 27.
The charges result from a standoff between the man, seen on video pointing an assault rifle at protesters, and the protesters, who allegedly ran him off the road and threatened him with knives near the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806.
Michael Fasig, 46, and Israel Hernandez, 22, are charged with felony reckless endangerment. Brennon Nastacio, 36, is charged with felony terrorizing. Warrants have been issued for all three men.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the Morton County charges, the man reported working for Dakota Access Pipeline. He said the incident occurred as he drove to check on burning equipment.
Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dakota Access, wrote in an email Friday that the man did not work for Dakota Access. The firm, Knightsbridge Risk Management, for which he was apparently working had equipment that was burned onsite, she wrote.
The contractor told police his vehicle was "rammed" and disabled by another vehicle, according to the affidavit. A group of people surrounded his car, making him fear for his life, he said and reported that five people approached him with knives in hand and he grabbed his long rifle. During the confrontation, his work vehicle worth $10,000 also was set on fire.
To protesters interviewed shortly after the confrontation, the scene looked much different.
B.J. Kidder, a Standing Rock Sioux Tribal member, told Forum News Service on Oct. 28 that he approached the man in a white pickup with no plates on County Road 134 and saw an AR-15 rifle and a 30-round clip in the console of the truck. He said he reached into the truck to grab the gun, and the vehicle took off quickly and recklessly down Highway 1806 towards the main Oceti Sakowin camp, nearly striking pedestrians.
Witnesses observed a vehicle push his car off the road, and a video posted online shows protesters following him into the river, where he is seen briefly pointing the rifle at people.
At first, the worker was taken into custody by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was released shortly after, and the Morton County Sheriff's Department said he was the victim in the case.
In a press conference on Oct. 29, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman said he told BIA agents the man should be charged with attempted murder.
"We gotta protect our people," Harold Frazier said.
The charges in the complaint arise from interviews and review of social media by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
The affidavit references a photo of two men, allegedly Fasig and Hernandez, standing beside two vehicles, one of which has a visible dent in the front left of the car.
"Two of our Iktce Wichasa Oyate warriors, and their war ponies, injured while stopping an armed DAPL worker's vehicle," the post from Oct. 29 reads.
Fasig, who is charged with reckless endangerment, also said in a Facebook video that he got to "ram" into a DAPL security guard's truck and called it "exciting," according to the affidavit.
An investigation by BIA determined that Hernandez is the owner of the Cadillac in the photo, which apparently had damage and white paint, possibly transferred from the worker's pickup. Hernandez also allegedly told BIA agents on Nov. 17 that he ran the pickup off the road.
The terrorizing charge against Nastacio arose from the worker's report that a man wearing a fur hat, later identified as Nastacio, walked toward him with a knife.
The affidavit makes no mention of the man pointing a gun at protesters, and the Morton County Sheriff's Department announced on Nov. 1 that no charges would be filed against him. No shots were fired from the gun, according to the sheriff's department.