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DNA on 3-Year-Old Cigarette Gets Protest Suspect Charged

Dakota Access pipeline equipment was damaged
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2019 3:49 PM CDT
Demonstrators protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline stand on a burned-out truck near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in November 2016.   (AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)

(Newser) – Authorities in North Dakota relied on DNA collected from a cigarette butt to charge a man with engaging in a riot for his part in a Dakota Access pipeline protest three years ago, according to an affidavit. Morton County prosecutors also charged Lawrence Malcolm Jr., 23, of Sisseton, South Dakota, with felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, the AP reports. An arrest warrant was issued Thursday. The charges against Malcolm relate to a Sept. 6, 2016, protest. More than 100 demonstrators, many with their faces covered, shut down construction and vandalized equipment on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Two protesters locked themselves to heavy equipment causing damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to an affidavit.

North Dakota crime lab officials notified investigators last month that the DNA profile from one of two cigarette butts collected at the scene was a match for Malcolm, whose DNA was on file from an earlier arrest for outstanding warrants related to Dakota Access protest violations. Agents reviewed video and photos from the protest but couldn't find Malcolm, which indicates he was one of the protesters with his face covered, the affidavit says. Malcolm is not currently in custody. Thousands of opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline gathered in southern North Dakota in 2016 and early 2017, and many of them camped on federal land and clashed with police. A new law in Texas increases penalties for any protesters who interfere with oil and gas pipelines, per KUT. Groups backing demonstrators can be sued or fined as much as $500,000.

(Read more Dakota Access Pipeline stories.)

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