Inspiration credit to Obey for this one. Delivered as promised.
On September 18th 2022, a 41 year old man named Shannon Brandt got into an altercation with 18 year old Cayler Ellingson after a dance party in North Dakota. The argument got heated, Brandt got into his vehicle, and then he ran over Ellingson, killing him. Brandt called the police to report himself and was arrested.
This tragedy would have been a local matter were it not for a single sentence uttered by Brandt in his 911 call, claiming that Ellingson was a “Republican Extremist” and that he felt threatened that Ellingson was calling for backup from others in his group. Republicans seized on this comment and flooded their media apparatus with the claim that this was a political assassination inspired by President Biden’s speech calling out MAGA extremists. And to this day, right wing activists use this as evidence of Democratic Party violence.
I’ve been asked to review this case to see how much merit there is in the claims and what occurred according to witnesses, family and police investigations. Below I will outline Brandt’s story, Ellingson’s story (as told through family and witnesses), and investigation progress and outcomes.
Shannon Brandt claims he was leaving a dance event and got into an argument with Ellingson, which he described in the 9-11 call as political, claiming that Ellingson was a Republican extremist who threatened to call up more of his “posse” to confront Brandt. Brandt stated he then fled to his pickup, where Ellingson refused to let go of the vehicle. Brandt took off anyway, and ran over Ellingson, “subduing” him. He left the scene and called up an ambulance. He was later arrested in his home.
Ellingson’s story is mainly told through his phone calls. The first time he calls his mother he says Brandt is saying he knows his parents and Ellingson is confirming if that is true. Later statements by Sheri Ellingson confirms that they did indeed know Brandt. The next call, 7 minutes later, has Ellingson asking his mother if he should call up his cousins and “posse” to deal with Brandt. Sheri advised her son not to do that, and could not say if her son felt threatened or not. There is a missed call 7 minutes later. 1 minute after that, Sheri received a call that “he” or “they are after me.” The call then drops.
Police have been steadily investigating this case, and have changed their charge from vehicular homicide and leaving the scene to murder and leaving the scene. This indicates that the police have found sufficient cause to suspect that the death of Ellingson was intentional on the part of Brandt. This is the story as compiled from police reports, witness testimony and family interviews.
Brandt is a 41 year old man with a history of DUIs and violent altercations, especially when intoxicated. He is known by his neighbors as a loner and considered mentally unwell, often going off on rants. Even friends describe him as being easily provoked, but otherwise a pleasant enough person. He is known to Cayler’s parents, though the extent of that relationship is unknown.
Ellingson is an 18 year old with no identifiable political leanings or activism. This is confirmed by friends and family, who state that he had no interest in politics as far as they knew. It is also unknown if he was at the dance party or happened to be in the area. It has not been reported that Ellingson had anything in his toxicology report, so the assumption is he was sober.
Around 2:!5 am on September 18th, 2022, Brandt and Ellingson got into an altercation outside of a street dance event in McHenry North Dakota. Brandt, allegedly significantly intoxicated at the time, starts ranting at Ellingson about knowing his parents. Witnesses describe there being no political tint to any of the argumentation, either from Brandt or Ellingson. Ellingson calls his parents repeatedly, first asking if they know Brandt, and then asking if he should call his cousins or posse for backup. This apparently sets Brandt off, and he goes to his vehicle.
At this point we don’t know exactly what happened. Damage to the car and autopsy reports do not substantiate a collision, though they very much do substantiate Ellingson being run over and this killing him. Brandt claims Ellingson held on to the vehicle; no witness testimony publicly released to date supports or denies this. Given the charges it is likely that police believe Brandt deliberately moved his vehicle towards Ellingson, and then ran him over without hitting him hard first.
Brandt then called 9-11 and requested an ambulance, and told the dispatcher he was scared that he was going to jail. He claimed that Ellingson was a Republican extremist and called his posse to “come and handle him.” He also claimed that Ellingson wouldn’t let him leave, which is probably the defense his lawyers are going to go with to claim unintentional homicide or fleeing in self-defense.
Brandt then left the scene before emergency services arrived and was arrested in his home, visibly intoxicated and at the station he was noted as being above the legal limit. Whether he was intoxicated at that level before he was home is unknown at this time, but given he is not being charged with a DUI in addition to the rest it is unclear if prosecutors can make this case.
Witnesses, Ellingson’s family and the emergency response teams all indicate there is no political tint here, and that Brandt’s claim on the 9-11 call was an attempt to cover up his own actions and give himself a reason to feel threatened. As such there is little to no evidence, according to the police and investigators, that this was politically motivated at all.
Brandt killed Ellingson. His trial will prove whether it was intentional or not. There is good reason to believe that Brandt did believe he was going to be confronted by a group of Ellingson’s friends and fled, but there is not a lot of reason to believe that Ellingson wouldn’t let him leave, as claimed by Brandt. There is no reason to believe this was political at all, as aside from the (allegedly drunken) claim that Ellingson was an extremist, there is no reference to politics in any manner, nor were the people involved particularly political.
Republicans have abused this situation to push a narrative that does not fit. Trump lied and said no one covered it, Paul lied and said this was a targeted attack, and right wing activists push this narrative on forums. To this day, Conservapedia claims Ellingson as a conservative martyr, Fox still presents it as political despite themselves debunking that angle, and politicians try to use it as a defense against actual targeted attacks perpetrated by their members (see Paul Pelosi attack).
I’ll end this with a note from a friend of the Ellingson family, Justin McDonald:
“I think that’s what bothers me the most. It has become something political, which it shouldn’t be. This is nothing more than another person taking another person’s life.”
Linkshttps://lawandcrime.com/crime/north-dakota-man-who-allegedly-claimed-to-run-over-republican-extremist-teenager-out-of-fear-is-now-charged-with-murder/ https://www.foxnews.com/us/north-dakota-man-freed-50k-bond-fatally-striking-republican-extremist-car-records-show https://www.valleynewslive.com/2022/09/30/charges-upgraded-murder-fatal-hit-and-run-crash/ https://www.kvrr.com/2022/10/13/shannon-brandt-makes-first-court-appearance-in-murder-case/ https://www.inforum.com/opinion/columns/port-cayler-ellingsons https://www.conservapedia.com/Cayler_Ellingson https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/north-dakota/trump-claims-media-ignored-death-of-north-dakota-teen-because-he-was-republican https://news.yahoo.com/shannon-brandt-intends-fully-defend-001917720.html https://www.foxnews.com/us/shannon-brandt-what-know-north-dakota-man-mowed-down-cayler-ellingson-suv