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Police: Driver admitted to intentionally killing teen at North Dakota street dance after political dispute

Court papers say 41-year-old Shannon Brandt confessed to a 911 dispatcher and police that he killed 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson due to a political dispute.

A boy with glasses and braces smiles and poses for a photo.
18-year-old Cayler Ellingson.
Contributed photo
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McHENRY, N.D. — According to court papers, it was not an accident but apparently a politically motivated attack.

The fatal vehicle-pedestrian incident happened early Sunday morning, Sept. 18, in McHenry, North Dakota, about 120 miles northwest of Fargo and 54 miles north of Jamestown.

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Shannon Brandt appeared in court via videoconferencing from the Stutsman County Jail on Sept. 19, 2022.
WDAY

Prosecutors allege moments before he was killed, 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson called his mom to come rescue him because 41-year-old Shannon Brandt was chasing him in the city of McHenry, where the street dance had just wrapped up.

By the time she could get there, her son was dead.

Brandt was officially charged Monday with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a deadly accident.

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"He was the one who called 911 to report the crash," said North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind.

Court papers show Brandt called 911 around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and told the 911 dispatcher that he just hit Ellingson, claiming the teen was part of a Republican extremist group and was calling people to come get Brandt after a political argument.

Ellingson's mom told police her son called her just before the crash, asking if she knew Brandt, which she does. She does not believe her son knew him.

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"The part that is not resolved is not going to be resolved ever," the victim's daughter said after the sentencing. "He's obviously not going to admit to this at all, whatsoever."

"We are still trying to determine what, exactly, transpired at the time of crash and prior to that as well," explained Niewind.

Police say Brandt was drunk when he hit and killed Ellingson with his SUV.

"We do not know of any witnesses. We are still making attempts to interview potential witnesses from the street dance, people that were present prior to the crash happening," Niewind said.

A judge ordered Brandt held on $50,000, which he objected, saying he's not a flight risk.

"I have a job, a life and a house and things I don't want to see go by the wayside — family that are very important to me," Brandt told the judge.

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If convicted on the vehicular homicide charge, Brandt would face a minimum of 10 years in prison because of a DUI on his record.

The maximum for the crime is 20 years.

Troopers say as the investigation develops, they could recommend more serious charges.

Related Topics: CRIME
Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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