Federal prosecutors pick up first DAPL-related case with new charge; governor orders emergency evacuation of Oceti Sakowin
By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – State charges were dropped against Red Fawn Fallis Monday, but felony charges were filed against the No DAPL activist in federal court.
“This is the first DAPL-related case we’ve had in federal court,” Head Federal Public Defender for North and South Dakota Neil Fulton said.
The state dropped the attempted murder charge against Fallis, according to Morton County Clerk of Court. Instead, she will be tried for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, according to Fulton. Fallis faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment if proven guilty.
Chris Bellmore, of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, was assigned to Fallis’ case.
Fallis, 47, still faces misdemeanor charges in Morton County, which include disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and maintaining a public nuisance, according to Morton County Clerk of Court. She is being held by U.S. Marshals, and under no bond at this time, Fulton said.
Friends, family, and supporters maintain the Denver woman’s innocence, and her name has become a rallying cry during many protests inside Bismarck and Mandan. Signs demanding her release are stretched out along the fence surrounding Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires camp.
Some supporters online stated her case should be moved out of state. Many called her “their hero,” while others declared they would wear red in support of Fallis.
Fallis allegedly fired three shots at law enforcement officers after they tackled her while she resisted arrest, according to affidavits released by the South Central Judicial Court.
Pennington County Sheriff’s Department deputies Rusty and Thad Schmit stated in an affidavit they saw a female, later identified as Fallis, acting disorderly, and when she walked away from the group the two deputies approached her and “took Red Fawn Fallis to the ground.”
During the struggle, deputies gave no indication as to where the handgun came from. Fallis did not have the gun in her hand when she was tackled, and the officers involved believe that Fallis was able to retrieve the gun when one of the deputies stopped pulling on her left arm, according to the affidavit.
Two gunshots were fired quickly, one bullet striking the ground close to a deputy’s knee, according to the affidavit. One of the deputies saw the handgun in her left hand and struggled with her over the gun, according to the affidavit. A third shot was fired, and the weapon was retrieved after assistance from other officers.
According to the affidavit, Fallis said she “was trying to pull the gun out of her pocket and the deputies jumped her and the gun went off.” During transport, she also allegedly said law enforcement was lucky she didn’t shoot them all, according to the affidavit.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported on October 27 that the northern Treaty Camp was emptied because activists refused to leave after repeated requests. A total of 561 people have been arrested since early August. Morton County Sheriff’s Department has spent in excess of USD 10 million, and approximately 1,300 officers have assisted from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 cities, and nine states.
The day after Thanksgiving, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a 10-day warning to Standing Rock tribal leaders to evacuate Oceti Sakowin, which is currently on federal lands. Eight days remain before those remaining on federal lands may be subject to arrest.
Despite repeated requests by state leaders, including Governor Jack Dalrymple, Congressman Kevin Cramer R-N.D., senators John Hoeven R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp R-N.D., the Army Corps has relaxed its stance saying that it has no plans to use force to evacuate Army Corps lands, including activist and DAPL employees, after December 5. The Dakota Access Pipeline runs along Army Corps lands its entire length in North Dakota, according to Julie Fedorchak, the public service commissioner.
Dalrymple is “frustrated at every level,” he said at a press conference, and on Monday issued an emergency “mandatory evacuation” order to safeguard against harsh winter conditions of all persons residing on Army Corps lands.
“These persons are ordered to leave the evacuation area immediately, and are further ordered not to return to the evacuation area,” Dalrymple said. “The definition of the evacuation area shall remain in effect even if the United States Army Corps of Engineers redefines or removes these prohibited areas.
“All persons in the evacuation area shall take all their possessions with them upon their evacuation. Any action or inaction taken by any party which encourages persons to enter, reenter, or remain in the evacuation area will be subject to penalties as defined in law.”
Dalrymple further added his office has the executive power to issue the warning on Army Corps lands in order to avert a possible disaster, and that anyone who chooses to disregard the order will stay at their own risk.
“I direct state agencies, emergency service officials, and nongovernmental organizations to reduce threats to public safety by not guaranteeing the provision of emergency and other governmental and nongovernmental services in the evacuation area, unless otherwise approved by a case by case basis by the Morton County Sheriff or Superintendent of the Highway Patrol.
“The general public is hereby notified that emergency services probably will not be available under current winter conditions.”
Cecily Fong, of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, said no law enforcement or National Guard will be used to enforce the governor’s order. DAPL employees are not subject to the order, according to Fong, as they are not camping in the elements.
Standing Rock and supporters have stated they’re not going anywhere. The land in question falls under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and was taken away by the Army Corps after it was condemned due to the devastating effects of the Pick-Sloan legislation.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander John W. Henderson said in press release. “But those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas.”
Additionally, more than 1,500 veterans with Veterans for Standing Rock are planning to arrive at Oceti Sakowin on December 4, according to the Veterans for Standing Rock’s Facebook page.