A North Dakota man who admitted to running over and killing a teenager says he did it because he thought the teen was part of a “Republican extremist group” that was out to get him, according to court documents.
Shannon Joseph Brandt, 41, was charged with one felony count of vehicular manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident in the death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson on Sept. 18. He was also charged with driving under the influence after he tested above the legal limit for alcohol, authorities said.
The incident took place in McHenry, North Dakota, which has a population of fewer than 40 people.
According to a probable cause affidavit published by Law & Crime, Brandt told investigators he and the younger man had a verbal altercation about politics at a local street dance. “Brandt indicated that the pedestrian called some people and Brandt feared they would come for him,” the affidavit states. “Brandt admitted to State Radio that he punched the pedestrian and that the pedestrian was part of a Republican extremist group.”
After Brandt allegedly ran down Ellingson, he left the scene and went home, but told police he later returned and called 911, telling the dispatcher that he “struck the pedestrian because the pedestrian was threatening him.”
He then left again before first responders arrived, authorities said. Ellingson was found lying in the street and was rushed to a hospital, but he later died of his injuries.
His mother gave investigators a drastically different version of events, court documents show. She said the teen had phoned at about 2:41 a.m. to ask if his parents knew Brandt, which they did. He then called again a short time later and “stated that ‘he’ or ‘they’ were chasing him,” and after that she was unable to reach him.
A GoFundMe set up to help Ellingson’s family pay for funeral expenses described the teen as a “wonderful and loving” son and said he was “taken away way too soon.” The fundraiser had raised nearly $28,000 as of Thursday morning.
The teen’s publicly available Facebook profile shows he was studying to be an ultrasound tech after graduating from high school just a few months ago.
Brandt, who was first booked at his home on driving under the influence and later charged with the felonies related to the hit and run, has since been released from Foster County jail on $50,000 bond.