North Dakota is currently the scene of ongoing protests over the construction of an oil pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline will transport oil 1,200 miles east, from North Dakota’s Bakken field to a refinery in central Illinois. The protests have been led by Standing Rock Sioux tribe members and other supporters from more than 200 other tribes. They call themselves “water protectors” and are protesting based on their belief that the pipeline would disturb sacred lands and burial grounds and would likely harm the Missouri River, which provides the tribe’s drinking water.
Kyle Thompson, of Bismarck, works for a Texas-based security firm, Leighton Security, that is contracted to provide protection of the pipeline equipment in North Dakota. His job was to take photos of damaged equipment near the construction entrance where hundreds of protesters were gathered. Thompson understood that this particular job had some risks so he disguised himself as a pipeline worker as to not be singled out by protesters.
Thursday, as Thompson was leaving for the day, he was approached by the protesters; one of them hit his truck and ran him off the road and through a fence before the truck came to a standstill. Unable to leave, more than 300 protesters came running at him. Some had knives. Thompson said, “Some were dead set on using those knives.” Thompson reacted by grabbing his AR-15 rifle to protect himself.
Thompson says that even with the rifle in his hands, the protesters continued to charge him. They set his truck on fire and one even shot a flare gun in his direction. Thompson said at that point, he made the decision to retreat into a nearby river as to not be surrounded, overtaken, and his rifle used against him or others.
Thompson explained, “I was in a situation in which myself and others were faced with the difficult decision to take another’s life or not. A decision in which most people are never faced with and I hope never will, a decision in which changes a person’s outlook on life forever.” Thompson never fired a single shot from his rifle. When he was apprehended he immediately handed his gun over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, without incident.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release on Tuesday that Thompson will not face any charges since he acted in self defense. Thompson said, “I would put my own life on the line if I thought that anyone’s life was in danger, either side of this situation in which we’re faced with here in North Dakota.” He added that he would continue his mission – protecting those around him – until he is physically unable to do so.