FBI Probing Drone Use Over Pipeline Site

Dakota Access protester targeted by feds

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FBI Drone Probe

MARCH 28--A Dakota Access Pipeline opponent whose drone was shot at by police over the North Dakota protest site is being investigated by the FBI for flying the small aerial vehicle too close to helicopters being used by law enforcement to monitor protesters, records show.

Federal investigators recently secured a search warrant for the contents of a Facebook account operated by Dean Dedman, 31, a member of the Standing Rock Hunkpapa tribe in South Dakota.

According to an affidavit sworn by FBI Agent Brian VanOosbree, Dedman is being investigated for allegedly violating a federal statute covering the damage or destruction of an aircraft.

Investigators allege that Dedman twice flew his drone so close to helicopters being used for police surveillance that pilots had to take “evasive maneuvers that would keep the two aircraft from colliding.” Believing that Dedman’s drone “had become a danger,” law enforcement officers repeatedly attempted to shoot the DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter down.

Videos posted to Dedman’s Facebook page show the drone being fired upon as it flies near police staging areas. The drone was hit by one “non-lethal bean bag round,” according to the FBI affidavit (in one video, Dedman holds a drone with a broken landing gear). A second drone was shot down, Dedman reported, as it flew over the  Dakota Access Pipeline drill pad.

Dedman, the FBI contends, employed the drones so that he and other pipeline protesters would “know where law enforcement is and how many police there are.” The FBI affidavit refers to a video in which Dedman refers to law enforcement as the “true scum of the earth.”

While aware of no-fly restrictions over the protest site and the drill pad, Dedman contended that his drone activity was protected by the First Amendment, and he urged others to push back against the Federal Aviation Administration’s temporary flight restrictions.

The Dakota Access pipeline protests began last year when members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe came out in opposition to the transfer of oil across sacred sites and under the Missouri River. In one of his first executive orders, President Donald Trump sought to expedite the pipeline’s construction. Last month, the protest site was cleared, and several dozen protesters who refused to leave voluntarily were arrested. (4 pages)