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North Dakota Man Admitted to Running Over Teen He Claimed was Part of ‘Republican Extremist Group’: Sheriff

Shannon Joseph Brandt

Shannon Joseph Brandt

A 41-year-old North Dakota man is behind bars after he allegedly admitted to intentionally running down an 18-year-old man following a “political argument,” authorities say.

Shannon Joseph Brandt was taken into custody Sunday evening and charged in the death of Cayler Ellingson, records reviewed by Law&Crime show. Brandt faces one count of criminal vehicular homicide, a Class A felony, and leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, a Class B felony.

Cayler Ellingson

Cayler Ellingson via GoFundMe

According to a probable cause affidavit, deputies with the Foster County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call about a hit-and-run fatality in northern Foster County at approximately 2:55 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2022. The caller allegedly identified himself as Brandt, and he explained that he “struck the pedestrian because the pedestrian was threatening him,” according to North Dakota’s emergency dispatch radio logs.

“Brandt stated that the pedestrian called some people and Brandt was afraid they were coming to get him,” the affidavit states. “Brandt admitted to State Radio that he hit the pedestrian and that the pedestrian was part of a Republican extremist group.”

When first responders arrived on the scene, they reportedly found Ellingson lying in the street. Medical personnel rushed him to Carrington Hospital for treatment. Ellingson’s family arrived at the scene a short while later, and members of Brandt’s family showed up soon after. Brandt, however, had reportedly left the area by then.

Authorities responded to the home of Brandt’s parents, located in rural McHenry, and later went to Brandt’s home in Glenfield, where they eventually found him.

“There, Brandt was interviewed by [redacted] outside his residence and admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the incident,” the probable cause affidavit states. “Brandt admitted to striking the pedestrian with his car because he had a political argument with the pedestrian and believed the pedestrian was calling people to come get him. Brandt admitted to leaving the scene of the incident and returning shortly after where he called 911. Brandt did not remain on scene till law enforcement arrived and ultimately returned to his residence.”

Authorities initially placed Brandt under arrest for driving under the influence and transported him to Stutsman County Jail. Brandt allegedly consented to a chemical breath test, which deputies say registered “above the legal limit of 0.08.”

Investigators met with Ellingson’s parents in Grace City. His mother told the detective that she had a conversation with her son at approximately 2:41 a.m., during which he asked her whether she or his father knew Brandt. She responded that they did, but she told the detective that she did not believe her son knew Brandt.

Ellingson’s mother then told him that she was on her way to pick him up from McHenry. However, a “short time later, [Ellingson] called again [and] stated that ‘he’ or ‘they’ were chasing him and after this, she could not reach [Ellingson],” the affidavit states.

According to a report from Fox News, there was a “street dance” — a city-sanctioned event akin to a street festival — taking place in McHenry near the area where Ellingson was fatally struck.

Ellingson was later pronounced dead at Carrington Hospital. A GoFundMe page on behalf of his family had raised more than $22,000 as of Wednesday evening.

Read the affidavit below.

[images via Foster County Sheriff/GoFundMe]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.