The shocking video of journalist and activist Erin Schrode getting shot by a police rubber bullet at the site of the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota went viral on Thursday. Astonishingly, though, local police are not just attempting to tell a different story about the incident. They’re refusing to say it even happened at all.
When asked about the video, which was recorded on the bank of the Cantapeta Creek just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office told me that, while officers are aware of the footage, they have no way to prove Schrode was actually shot.
“We don’t even know if that’s even true,” spokeswoman Donnell Preskey told me. “We’re not confirming that that’s even the case.”
In the video, a shot can clearly be heard ringing out. Schrode’s camera is immediately sent haywire, and she cries out in pain. But Preskey said the video “doesn’t tell me anything,” adding that there were no injuries reported to police and the whole matter is under investigation.
She pointed Fusion to a sheriff’s department statement released on Wednesday, which somewhat equivocally addresses police use of “less-than-lethal ammunition” in the form of rubber bullets. Preskey said that the officers on the ground—who she said had been deployed from eight different states—were the sole source for the information used in the statement.
The statement details how police shot two men with the non-lethal rounds. The department claims that one wore a gas mask, refused to show his hands, and charged on police, and another was allegedly throwing bottles at officers.
While she’s hardly surprised that police are casting doubt on her story, Schrode told me that this only strengthens her resolve to stand against the pipeline, whose current path cuts through sites sacred to the Standing Rock tribe and crosses the Missouri River, its main water source.
“The police are there to protect us, and that’s not what is happening right now in Standing Rock,” Schrode said.
She said there were “dozens” of eyewitnesses to back up her account, and that it’s “absurd” for police to discredit her story.
While she originally went out to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to cover the struggle against the pipeline’s construction as a journalist, Schrode says now, “I’ve got skin in the game.”
“To see police fire on me is outrageous and indefensible,” she said. “I’m going to back down, I’m not going to shut up, I’m not going to leave. I’m in.”
WATCH: What it’s like to be a trespasser on your own native land at Standing Rock