A North Dakota man was sentenced to prison for running over and killing a teen who he deemed to be a "Republican extremist."
Shannon Brandt, of Glenfield, North Dakota, was initially charged with criminal vehicular homicide. The charge was later upgraded to murder. Brandt, 42, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May. He was also charged with leaving the scene of the fatality, but it was dismissed in a plea deal.
Brandt was sentenced to five years in state prison for the death of an 18-year-old. A state district court judge gave Brandt credit for nearly a year already served.
Following the prison sentence, Brandt will then serve three years' supervised probation and a yearlong suspension of his driver's license.
In September 2022, Brandt attended a street dance in McHenry, North Dakota. There was an alleged argument that escalated, according to a police report.
Brandt called 911 and informed the emergency dispatcher that he had used his SUV to mow down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson, according to the affidavit. Brandt allegedly told the dispatcher that he ran over Ellingson because he believed him to be a "Republican extremist," who purportedly felt was threatening him. Police said there is no evidence that Ellingson was a conservative.
Brandt had reportedly left the crime scene in his vehicle before contacting authorities.
Brandt allegedly told the 911 dispatcher, "I hit him and I didn’t mean to, and he’s subdued, I was scared to death, but he’s subdued, he can’t do anything to me now."
Brandt purportedly continued, "I almost, oh god, I almost just run away 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 reportedly told the 911 dispatcher that Ellingson "wouldn't let him leave" and the teen called someone and said "something to the effect of you're going to have to come here and handle him."
Ellingson's final call with 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," and the phone call dropped, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutor Kara Brinster said Brandt's vehicle ran over his torso and legs. An autopsy determined Ellingson was on the ground when he was fatally injured, according to court documents.
Brandt was arrested at his home in Glenfield, and officers found him "visibly intoxicated," according to the affidavit.
Brandt admitted to drinking before the deadly incident, according to police.
Brandt’s lawyer, Mark Friese, told Valley News Live after the sentencing, "Shannon is pleased that the matter is concluded and hopes those affected can begin to heal."
Ellingson’s mother, Sheri Ellingson, said during the trial, "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. Our days, months, and years will never be the same because of your selfishness."
Brandt told the courtroom before his sentencing, "I'm here to take responsibility for the role I played in this tragedy. 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. I am truly devastated by the impact this has had on the entire community."
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