Politically Motivated Murder: North Dakota Man Runs Over Teen

A North Dakota man was sentenced to five years in state prison on Friday for fatally striking an 18-year-old with his car. He expressed concerns about the teenager’s alleged connection to a “Republican extremist” group.

Shannon Brandt of Glenfield, North Dakota, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May after running over Cayler Ellingson with his 2003 Ford Explorer on September 18, 2022. The tragedy took place in McHenry, North Dakota.

According to reports, a state district court judge sentenced Brandt, granting him nearly a year of credit for time served under house arrest. This sentence includes three years of supervised probation and a one-year suspension of his driver’s license.

It’s noteworthy that the maximum penalty for such charges is ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both, according to sources. Sheri Ellingson, the victim’s mother, reportedly urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence on Brandt.

She expressed her pain, stating, “Shannon, you took a piece of our family that’s not replaceable. When you chose to take Cayler’s life and happiness, you took ours too. You have caused our family endless pain, heartache, sleepless nights.”

The case gained controversy after a police affidavit initially suggested that Brandt had intentionally run down Ellingson following a political disagreement. However, investigators later backtracked on this claim due to limited supporting evidence.

Foster County State Attorney Kara Brinster said Brandt had been drinking and arguing with Ellingson before the incident. Brandt claimed in a 911 call that he felt threatened by Ellingson who was allegedly associated with a “Republican extremist group.”

Brandt said, “He was threatening me with something to have to do with — something with an extremist Republican group. And then he made a phone call saying, ‘I thought he was Republican (background noise) or something. You’re going have to come here and handle him.’ I got scared to death. I didn’t know what to do.”

Brandt stated that he accidentally hit the teen while attempting to escape from him during a crowded event in McHenry. An autopsy report indicated that Ellingson’s fatal injuries were not caused by being struck but by being run over once he was on the ground.

Initially, authorities charged Brandt with criminal vehicular homicide, but Foster County State’s Attorney Kara Brinster later upgraded the charges to murder, according to Fox News. The charges were later reduced to manslaughter, to which Brandt pleaded guilty on May 18.

Before the judge issued the sentence, Brandt addressed the court and apologized to everyone affected by his actions. He stated, “I’m here to take responsibility for the role I played in this tragedy.”

Brandt continues, “I’m very sorry to the Ellingson family, my family and anybody else that has been affected by my actions. I have always enjoyed seeing the Ellingsons and would never have intentionally caused harm to any of them.”

He adds, “I am truly devastated by the impact this has had on the entire community.” Brandt’s defense attorney, Mark Friese, commented that Brandt “is relieved to have finally been able to offer his apology and to allow the Ellingson family to move forward.”

Friese also mentioned that Brandt has autism, which Foster County Judge Bradley Cruff acknowledged during sentencing. Cruff stated, “You didn’t intentionally run him over. I acknowledge that. I understand what the experts in this case are saying about how your mind works.”

He added, “You didn’t intentionally kill Cayler. But he did die and that’s a result of your alcohol consumption. You recklessly pushed Cayler to the ground with your SUV, you recklessly ran him over and you recklessly killed him.”