|Militarized police at Standing Rock: Weapons of brutality: 12-gauge shotgun filled with bean bag shot or tear gas and two tasers. Photo by Rob Wilson 2016.|
|Marcus Mitchell, Dine', (second from left) with his attorneys before giving his deposition on Friday in Albuquerque. Photo by Dr. Michelle Cook, Dine', director Divest Invest Protect.|
|Marcus Mitchell, Dine', 2017|
The court complaint filed in 2019 states:
On the evening of January 18, 2017, and into the early morning hours of January 19, 2017, approximately 200 water protectors gathered at Backwater Bridge to peacefully protest the DAPL.
The water protectors’ peaceful protest included praying, chanting, and playing drums. Elders and women were among the water protectors protesting at the Bridge.
Bismarck Police Officer Josh Brown, Bismarck Police Officer Lane Masters, Defendant Bismarck Police Officer Tyler Welk, Bismarck Police Officer Damian Girodat, Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy Cameron McClenahan, Defendant Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy George Piehl, North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Guenthner, and Defendant North Dakota Highway Patrol Sergeant Benjamin Kennelly were all dispatched to the scene and issued 12 gauge shotguns that deployed drag stabilizing bean bag rounds that they were commanded to and did in fact fire at the water protectors.
46. Upon information and belief, at all relevant times, Defendant Sergeant Benjamin Kennelly was the scene commander. He was assigned the “Forward Command” position and directed law enforcement officers during “pushes” during which officers rushed, advanced toward and deployed munitions at the water protectors.
47. Defendant Kennelly, as commander of the scene, was at all times carrying out the policies of Defendant Kirchmeier and Morton County, directing officers in the implementation of the strategies, actions, and practices that were created, devised, ordained and/or ratified by Defendant Kirchmeier for the County.
48. Sometime during the late hours of January 18 and the early morning hours of January 19, Mr. Mitchell went to Backwater Bridge when he heard that law enforcement officers were shooting unarmed water protectors, including elders and women, on the Bridge.
49. As Mr. Mitchell approached the Bridge, he observed from a distance that law enforcement officers were indeed shooting people on the Bridge.
50. Mr. Mitchell positioned himself in front of women and elders in the crowd, and maintained a distance of no less than 20 feet away from a line of law enforcement officers, which included those he identified as members of the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and the Bismarck Police Department.
51. Mr. Mitchell was unarmed and standing among other unarmed water protectors, generally keeping his hands raised above his head to make clear to the law enforcement officers that he was unarmed and peaceful.
52. Upon information and belief, Defendants singled out certain water protectors, including Mr. Mitchell, whom they deemed to be “agitators” of the protests for arrest in order to particularly punish them, stop the protest, and chill the rights of other water protectors as documented in law enforcement reports after Mr. Mitchell was shot. The Defendants made a plan to shoot and arrest Mr. Mitchell at Backwater Bridge, despite the fact that Mr. Mitchell was protesting peacefully.
53. With his hands raised in the air, Mr. Mitchell said “Mni Wiconi,” which means “water is life” in the Lakota language. Mr. Mitchell presented no threat to the law enforcement officers, including the Defendants.
54. Upon a countdown, and without cause or justification, Defendant Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy Piehl and Defendant Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy John Doe 1 shot at Mr. Mitchell with a 12 gauge less-than-lethal shotgun loaded with drag stabilizing bean bag rounds.
55. At about the same time, also without cause of justification, Defendant Bismarck Police Department Swat Officer Tyler Welk and Defendant Bismarck Police Department Officer John Doe 2 shot at Mr. Mitchell with a 12 gauge less than lethal shotgun loaded with drag stabilizing bean bag rounds.
56. Mr. Mitchell was hit in the face, leg, and in the back of his head by the Defendant Officers.
57. A bean bag round shot by the Defendant Officers entered Mr. Mitchell’s left eye socket, shattering the orbital wall of his eye and his cheekbone, and ripping open a flap of skin nearly to his left ear. The bean bag round became lodged into his eye, with strands of the round protruding out of his left eye socket.
58. Defendant Kennelly had the duty and opportunity to intervene on Mr. Mitchell’s behalf, but did nothing to assist him, and in fact directed, encouraged, and/or facilitated the Defendant Officers’ shooting of Mr. Mitchell.
59. After being shot, Mr. Mitchell became disoriented and fell face down to the ground, which was covered in snow. His nostrils filled with blood and he was unable to breathe, causing him to feel like he was drowning in his own blood.
60. Law enforcement officers immediately approached Mr. Mitchell and pinned him to the ground, placing their knees on his body, and holding him down in the snow. Officers then handcuffed Mr. Mitchell tightly behind his back and pulled him up and into a vehicle, as he was unable to get up on his own.
While in the vehicle, an officer held Mr. Mitchell so tightly that he was again unable to breathe. Mr. Mitchell could not see through the blood on his face. He remained in the vehicle in pain and unable to see, physically pinned by an officer, and told not to move. Officers profanely denied Mr. Mitchell’s requests for water.
62. Mr. Mitchell was finally transported to Sanford Bismarck Medical Center via ambulance, accompanied by Morton County Sheriff’s Office deputies. When he arrived at the hospital, Mr. Mitchell was unable to walk on his own or see from his left eye. He fainted, and when he awoke, he found himself restrained, with his left wrist and right leg cuffed to the hospital bed.
63. Doctors advised Mr. Mitchell that he had undergone a surgical operation to remove the bean bag round from his face and eye. He could not see out of his left eye, and he was in pain and felt disoriented.
64. While he was disoriented and in pain and restrained in the hospital bed, two North Dakota law enforcement officers interrogated him about the Oceti Šakowiŋ camp. The officers asked him about the water protectors’ upcoming plans and whether there were weapons present at the camp.
65. For a day and half, Mr. Mitchell lay alone in his hospital bed. He later learned that people were desperately searching for him, but could not find him, because law enforcement officers, in collusion with hospital staff, concealed his whereabouts. His friends and supporters eventually found him shackled to a gurney in the hospital after his surgery.
66. As a result of the Defendant Officers’ actions, Mr. Mitchell suffered irreparable harm to his left eye, to his vision and hearing, and to his sense of smell, in addition to suffering from chronic and debilitating pain on the left side of his face. He has since undergone several medical procedures to treat his injuries.
67. Mr. Mitchell has not yet fully recovered from the injuries he suffered as a result of the Defendant Officers’ actions. In addition, for his treatment at Sanford Bismarck Medical Center, Mr. Mitchell faces a debt of several hundred thousand dollars.
68. Law enforcement officers charged Mr. Mitchell with criminal trespass and obstruction of a government function in connection with the abovementioned events, carrying a maximum sentence of two years in prison and $6,000 in fines.
69. Mr. Mitchell did not know about the criminal charges while he was held at Sanford Bismarck Medical Center. Even though Morton County Sherriff’s Office officers knew that Mr. Mitchell was in the hospital, they did not advise him of the charges against him or that he was expected to appear in court. As a result, a warrant was issued against Mr. Mitchell, and he was forced to retain counsel to quash the warrant.
70. The criminal charges required Mr. Mitchell to travel extensively between his home in New Mexico to North Dakota and Illinois. The charges were ultimately resolved through a pretrial diversion agreement that resulted in the dismissal of the charges.
71. By bringing broad and ill-defined charges against Mr. Mitchell, law enforcement officers unlawfully criminalized Mr. Mitchell’s right to defend indigenous sacred land and resources recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
72. As a result of the Defendants’ actions, Mr. Mitchell has also suffered from extraordinary mental and physical trauma, additional pain and suffering, and complete disruption of his enjoyment of daily life.
|Shotgrun for firing bean bags. Standing Rock Photo by Stephanie Keith.|