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Charges against man accused of threatening DAPL guard may be dropped

MANDAN, N.D. — A prosecutor has asked to dismiss the felony charge against a protester accused of threatening a pipeline security guard with a knife.

Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Gabrielle Goter asked Judge Joel Medd to drop the case against Brennon Nastacio, 37, of Colorado.

"The victim has made ongoing and various statements, which raise significant doubt as to whether the state could meet its burden of proof with regard to the charge of terrorizing," she wrote in a motion filed Friday, July 14.

The charge arises from an incident on Oct. 27, when protesters were cleared from a northern "front line" camp. Authorities say Michael Fasig and Israel Hernandez, also protesters, crashed their cars into a security worker's vehicle in order to get him off the road. Nastacio allegedly walked toward the man with a knife.

Security guard Kyle Thompson, who was wearing a bandanna over his face and carrying an assault rifle, was reportedly driving down Highway 1806 to take photos of burning Dakota Access Pipeline equipment.

Since that time, Thompson has said he understands now why the protesters acted as they did and thinks it was "propaganda and everything that really heightened my sense of how dangerous things could be."

"The water protectors that day, they had a mission to protect their own people," Thompson told Myron Dewey, of Digital Smoke Signals, in a Facebook interview on July 12. "It was just a miscommunication on both sides, I believe, that made us do what we did."

Nastacio's attorney, Bruce Nestor, said he believed his client was never terrorizing, but rather acting "in the defense of others."

"It's been our position from the beginning that Thompson had no ID on him, no ID on this truck. He was an individual armed with an assault rifle with his face covered, driving erratically," Nestor said. "The people that intervened did so out of a desire to protect other people."

Nestor said the dismissal came just days before he was scheduled to depose Thompson and former Bureau of Criminal Investigations agent Scott Betz, who investigated the case. The attorney hoped the deposition would provide insight on the workings of Tigerswan and other private security firms, such as Leighton Services, for whom Thompson worked.

Nestor added that he believed the dismissal countered some of the law enforcement narrative of violent protesters threatening workers trying to do their jobs.

"It was a false narrative at the time. The fact that the charges have been dismissed reinforces that," he said.

Nastacio, who works in construction, still faces felony charges of civil disorder and lighting fires on Oct. 27.

The charges against Fasig and Hernandez remain. The men have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial on Oct. 5.

Goter did not respond to an emailed request for comment.