The North Dakota man who admitted to hitting 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson with his SUV over politics earlier this month, was arrested on Friday, and charged with murder.
Shannon Brandt, 41, was initially charged with vehicular homicide in the Sept. 18 incident, and was released from jail after posting a $50,000 bond two days later. Brandt was not placed under house arrest and had no curfew after posting bond.
Brandt told police he hit Ellington with his vehicle following a political argument at a local bar’s street dance in McHenry, North Dakota. The doctors who performed the autopsy, however, concluded that Ellingson’s injuries showed that he was on the ground when he received them—meaning he was run over.
Brandt told police the teenager was part of a “Republican extremist group,” and the teen was calling people to “go after” him, but a police investigation found that Ellingson had only called his parents for help.
According to investigators, none of the witnesses observed a political argument before before the incident, and a family friend who knew the teen said he wasn’t even active in politics.
Based on additional information collected by the NDHP, the ND BCI, and the autopsy of Ellingson, “the Foster County State’s Attorney has filed a Criminal Information charging Shannon Joseph Brandt with Murder, a class AA Felony,” KXNET reported. Brandt faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without parole.
According to the incident affidavit, the inebriated Brandt struggled to explain to 911 dispatchers why he hit Ellingson with his vehicle.
Yes, I tried to take off en, he he wasn’t going to let me go, if I hit him I didn’t mean to and and he’s subdued I was scared to death but he’s subdued, he can’t do anything to me now so, so this is why I’m calling you. I mean I I almost oh god, I almost just runaway but I thought jeez obviously if it was a total accident I wouldn’t be scared but I know it was more than that.
Brandt told police that Ellingson had called other people and that he was worried that they were on their way to the scene of the incident. He claimed that Ellingson told the people he called something to the effect of “you’re going to have to come here and handle him.”
The investigation of Ellingson’s phone found that the only calls he had made between 2-2:42 a.m. were to his mother and father.
Brandt’s deadly attack followed Joe Biden’s prime time speech three weeks prior excoriating Republican extremists as a “threat to this country.”
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Biden declared during his infamous “red sermon” on September 1. Biden framed his speech at Philadelphia‘s Independence National Historical Park as a “battle for the soul of the nation.”
After calling the police, Brandt reportedly left the scene and returned to his home in Glenfield, ND.
Law enforcement later arrested Brandt at his home, and transported to Stutsman County Correctional Facility.
Police reportedly found “disturbances of the dirt on the hood and front end of the 2003 Ford Explorer” and other damage to the car at Brandt’s residence. A North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper said in a court filing that Brandt “admitted to striking someone he never met with his vehicle” and then left the area.
Police said the 41-year-old admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the incident, and the results of a breathalyzer test showed were above the legal limit.
The following day, September 19, an autopsy of Ellingson’s body was conducted at the University of North Dakota Forensic Pathology Center. Upon completion of the autopsy, doctors reported that the nature and manner of Ellingson’s injuries showed that he was on the ground when he received them.
Doctors indicated that this meant that the injuries weren’t caused by being hit by Brandt’s vehicle — they were caused by being run over.
Ellingson’s mother told investigators she had received a phone call from him at 2:27 a.m. the night of the incident.
During the call, Ellingson told his mother that Brandt was asking who his parents were. After Ellingson told Brandt, he stated that he knew who his parents were.
The next call occurred at 2:34 a.m. when Ellingson called his mother again, asking if he should maybe call his cousins or posse. His mother said at that point she didn’t know if Ellingson was feeling threatened.
His mother then said not to worry about that and that she would be on her way to pick him up.
After missed calls to both his mother and father at 2:41 a.m., Ellingson was able to get in touch with his mother at 2:42 a.m. with Ellingson telling his mother something to the effect of they are after me or he is after me.
Ellingson’s mother said the call was dropped after that and that was the last time she spoke with him, there were no other calls after that.
Following the investigation, the State of North Dakota found that the vehicular homicide charges were no longer appropriate and charged Brandt with Murder, a Class AA felony, along with Duty in Accident Involving Death, a B Felony.
He is currently being held in Stutsman County Correctional Center.