Morton County, ND — In return for heroically de-escalating a situation in which an employee of the Dakota Access Pipeline pointed a loaded AR-15 at bystanders, Brennon Nastacio is being charged with a felony — and has been placed on the Morton County Sheriff’s most wanted list.
“I am being charged with a Class C Felony for Terrorizing Kyle Thompson,” Nastacio, a Pueblo Native American with two children, told Native News Online. “I protected him and they (Morton County) are treating me like a criminal. Now I have to pay all sorts of legal fees and I don’t have the funds for that.”
Video captured Nastacio attempting to calm Thompson — who falsely presented himself in Standing Rock as one of the water protectors opposing the pipeline — out of a rampage, and potentially worse.
Nastacio and other water protectors, who were all unarmed, held Thompson at bay until Bureau of Indian Affairs police arrived to place him under arrest. Shortly afterward, local law enforcement picked him up and the FBI took the man into custody for further questioning — but the Morton County Sheriff’s Department astonishingly refused to press charges against Thompson, claiming he’d acted in self-defense — and nothing came of the FBI’s interaction.
On October 27, a white truck sped toward peaceful water protectors near Highway 1806’s Backwater Bridge — its driver holding an AR-15 rifle. Out of grave concern the man might be intending to shoot someone, one of the protectors attempted to reach into the vehicle to stop it — but the man veered the truck and began speeding at a group of witnesses.
One witness told The Free Thought Project the driver nearly hit them and several other bystanders as they tried to divert the truck from the road and prevent it from reaching the densely-populated camps.
After receiving an alert about the incident, security from one of the pipeline opposition camps — to be clear, not the police, but unarmed individuals tasked with ensuring no weapons are brought into the encampments — quickly drove to the scene and ran the rogue truck off the road to protect everyone’s safety.
But the driver immediately jumped out of the vehicle brandishing the loaded rifle and a 9mm pistol at security and bystanders on the scene — but the small group managed to corral the man into a nearby pond.
“You can’t kill all of us,” one person told the armed man. “You’re just going to make things worse.”
That’s approximately when Nastacio stepped up, waded into the water, and tried to convince the armed man to hand over his weapon and not harm any of the water protectors.
“I kept telling Kyle I would make sure nothing happened to him if he gave me his gun. I was trying to protect him and everyone in camp. Right now with all this police violence in the media, I knew that cops could aim to kill. I didn’t want him to get shot. I just wanted him to give up the gun,” Nastacio told Native News.
It wasn’t until after Bureau of Indian Affairs made the arrest that witnesses discovered documents in the truck identifying the gunman as Kyle Thompson — Dakota Access Pipeline employee — and a log sheet linking the Chevy truck to Knightsbridge Risk Management, which helps run security for the company.
“I now understand that Thompson was run off the road before me arriving at the scene and he is a DAPL worker,” Nastacio explained. “At the time I didn’t know any of those details. I just knew that I wanted to keep everyone safe.”
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier painted a deeply flawed account of events — disputed plainly by witness video and testimonials — describing Thompson, a U.S. Army veteran, as the victim in the incident, since he was forced to draw the weapon against advancing water protectors with knives.
Although Nastacio did, indeed, have a knife in his possession, video clearly shows it remained on his hip throughout the encounter with Thompson — and the only clear threat to anyone was the Dakota Access employee.
In fact, the hero worried for the safety of thousands of people camped at Standing Rock — particularly given the number of women, children, and elders present.
“My son came to camp with me in August,” Nastacio explained. “All I could think about was his and everyone at camps safety. That’s why I went towards Kyle when folks called me, even though all I had to defend myself and everyone was a knife.”
For his courageous role in stopping a rifle-toting pipeline employee from acting violently against water protectors, Nastacio now must fund a legal defense against charges — for which a GoFundMe campaign can be found here — and faces a possible stint behind bars, given the notoriously biased criminal justice system. A petition to North Dakota State Attorney Allen Koppy to have all charges against Nastacio dropped has nearly reached its goal.
Meanwhile, the gun-wielding pipeline employee remains a free man and will not have to suffer the consequences for his aggression against peaceful people.
Nastacio defused the situation without employing violence — and said he wouldn’t hesitate to act again in defense of the innocent:
“I would do it all over again. I protected everyone including Kyle. Now I need people to help me with the fees I have to pay for being a hero.”