North Dakota prosecutors on Friday leveled a murder charge against the man who allegedly ran down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson earlier this month because he was a “Republican extremist” and had threatened him.
Shannon Brandt, 41, was arrested in the wee hours of September 18 after police say that he fatally struck Ellingson with his SUV after a street dance in McHenry, North Dakota. Brandt, who police said was drunk and fled the scene, told a 911 operator Ellingson was part of a “Republican extremist group” and had tried to “get him.” The politically charged killing in a town of only 64 people drew national headlines.
“I just wanna ask you a question, am I going to prison?” Brandt asked the 911 operator, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Friday. The document said Brandt indicated on the call that the incident was intentional.
Ellingson called his mom at just after 2:30 a.m., moments before he was killed to say he was being chased after the street dance. She told her son she would come pick him up, according to police, but by the time she arrived at the scene, her son was had been fatally struck in an alleyway. The heartbroken mother told police she does not believe her son knew his killer.
Brandt was initially charged with vehicular homicide and released September 20 from the Stutsman County Jail after posting a $50,000 bond. The new charge was announced Friday by Foster County State’s Attorney Kara Brinster and was the result of an investigation by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Foster County Sheriff’s Department, and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The affidavit revealed new and chilling details about Ellingson’s final moments and what Brandt allegedly did after.
Ellingson’s mother said her son told her he was being harassed and that “maybe he should call his cousins or posse,” according to the affidavit. She said she did not know at the time if he felt threatened but told him she was on her way. His last call to his mother was at 2:42 a.m., when he said “something to the effect of they are after me or he is after me,” before the call cut off, according to the affidavit.
A short time later, Brandt was on the phone with a 911 operator, at first claiming Ellingson had somehow prevented him from leaving the area.
“He wasn’t going to let me go, I hit him. I didn’t mean to and and he’s subdued,” Brandt said, according to the affidavit. “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 said, according to the affidavit.
A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Ellingson’s family has raised over $50,000.