Suspect free on bail after killing teen with car, calls victim a 'Republican extremist'

Police say 18–year-old Cayler Ellingson was struck by a car during a political dispute.
Police say 18–year-old Cayler Ellingson was struck by a car during a political dispute. | GoFundMe

A North Dakota man is out on bond just days after he was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide in the death of a teen he allegedly described as a "Republican extremist."

Shannon Brandt, 41, was arrested on Sept. 18 in the hit-and-run death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson, who police say Brandt ran over with his car during a political dispute, according to an affidavit obtained by The Christian Post.

Police responded to a 911 call just before 3 a.m. on Sept. 18 in McHenry, where prosecutors told local news media Brandt was chasing Ellingson following a local street festival.

According to the affidavit, Brandt told investigators he struck Ellingson because he "was threatening him."

According to police, Brandt said Ellingson "called some people" and that Brandt was "afraid they were coming to get him."

He later admitted to hitting Ellingson and claimed the teen was a "part of a Republican extremist group," according to the affidavit.

Upon arrival on the scene, paramedics reportedly found Ellingson lying in the street and rushed him to a nearby hospital. 

A short time later, the victim's and Brandt's families arrived on the scene, according to authorities.

Brandt later called police and reported that he had struck Ellingson.

After investigators went to Brandt's home, he "admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the event" and striking Ellingson with his car over what Brandt said was a "political argument," the affidavit stated.

In addition to admitting that he left the scene to call 911, investigators said Brandt told authorities he also believed Ellingson was calling people to "come get him."

Shannon Brandt
Shannon Brandt | Foster County Sheriff's Dept.

Brandt was arrested on suspicion of DUI and booked at the Stutsman County jail. He later failed a breathalyzer test, authorities said.

Police say Ellingson's mother told authorities at the hospital that while she knew Brandt, she "did not believe" her son knew his alleged assailant.

Brandt's attorneys did not respond to a request for comment by CP as of Thursday afternoon.

In his first court appearance via Zoom on Monday, Brandt was arraigned on felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide and leaving the crash scene. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

After Brandt reportedly requested no bond because he has "a family and a job" and is not a flight risk, Foster County District Court Judge James Hovey set bond at $50,000.

Brandt posted bond Tuesday and is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 11.

Since then, the story has garnered national attention from prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump Jr., who shared the story on social media with the caption, "Joe Biden's America!"

Trump claims a connection between Ellingson's death and "Joe Biden and his insane speech of just 2 weeks ago." In a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Biden called former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters a threat to "the very foundations of our republic."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also highlighted Ellingson's death, tweeting, "Leftist murders a teenager because he was a Republican. Then, he's promptly released on bail. Twisted. Dems' hateful rhetoric continues to bear toxic fruit."

A GoFundMe campaign to help the Ellingson family raised over $43,000 as of Friday afternoon.

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