911 transcript details Shannon Brandt's version of encounter that left North Dakota teen dead

Shannon Brandt has been charged with murder and failure to immediately report the death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson. The North Dakota Highway Patrol alleged Brandt struck the teen with a vehicle after a street dance in McHenry over a political argument.

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Shannon Brandt appeared in court via videoconferencing from the Stutsman County Jail on Sept. 19, 2022.
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CARRINGTON, N.D. — A transcript of a 911 call from a North Dakota man charged with killing an 18-year-old with his car sheds light on the defendant's perspective after he feared the teen was a "Republican extremist" who called friends to come after him.

The transcript of 41-year-old Shannon Joseph Brandt’s Sept. 18 call to dispatchers details the moments after he allegedly ran over 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson in McHenry, a town about 120 miles northwest of Fargo.

Brandt, who's from Glenfield, has been charged in Foster County District Court with murder and failure to immediately report Ellingson’s death.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol alleged Brandt struck the Grace City teenager with a vehicle after a street dance in McHenry over a political argument. Brandt claimed Ellingson was a “Republican extremist” and called for people to come get Brandt, according to a criminal complaint.

A boy with glasses and braces smiles and poses for a photo.
Cayler Ellingson.
Contributed photo

An autopsy report found Ellingson was already on the ground before he was run over, according to the complaint.


Brandt initially was charged with criminal vehicular homicide. Ellingson’s story caused an uproar among some Republicans who demanded Brandt be charged with murder. Former President Donald Trump even chimed in, saying Ellingson was targeted and killed in cold blood for being a proud Republican.

However, recent court filings from Brandt's attorney look to put a hole in that version of events.

Brandt told dispatchers that Ellingson “was saying something about some Republican extremist group” and “was calling other guys to come get me,” not that Ellingson was part of a “Republican extremist group,” his attorney Mark Friese wrote in his brief supporting a motion to reduce Brandt's bail.

Friese argued the murder charge should be dismissed since charging documents contained “erroneous claims” that “caused an uproar.”

“Hype resulted in the prosecution charging Mr. Brandt with intentional homicide for a tragedy which all objective evidence shows, and which the state’s medical examiner concludes, was an accident,” Friese wrote in his brief. “Mr. Brandt is presumptively innocent by law but has been treated as presumptively guilty.”

Brandt is being held at the Stutsman County Jail with a $1 million bail amount.

Friese declined to comment for this story. Foster County State’s Attorney Kara Brinster did not return a message left by The Forum.

Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind previously told The Forum there's no evidence to support Brandt’s claims that there was a political argument before Ellingson’s death. Niewind declined to comment for this story.


A toxicology report said Ellingson’s blood alcohol content exceeded 0.20%, according to Friese's brief. That report and an autopsy report are slated to be presented at a court hearing next week.

State troopers said Brandt was visibly intoxicated when he spoke with officers after the crash, but citations do not list his blood alcohol content.

‘I never meant to hurt him’

The crash allegedly happened in an alley, according to the transcript. Brandt told 911 dispatchers he was “trying to escape” Ellingson, the transcript said.

“He wouldn’t let me leave,” Brandt said in the transcript. “He got on my vehicle and I couldn’t get him away from me.”

Brandt went on to say Ellingson got on the hood of his vehicle and was threatening him, the transcript said. Later in the call, Brandt said he didn’t jump on his vehicle but instead “got in front of my vehicle.”

Brandt told dispatchers he heard Ellingson say he thought Brandt was Republican, according to the transcript. At one point, Brandt claimed Ellingson was on the phone and said, “You’re going to have to come here and handle him.”

While on the phone, Ellingson "was saying something about some Republican extremist group, saying, ‘I thought he was part of us,’” Brandt said in the transcript. “He was calling other guys to come get me. And I, I couldn’t get out of town. And I just wanted to get out of here. I was scared. I never meant to hurt him.”

Brandt also said he didn’t know Ellingson, but the teenager was “babbling some of this extremist (expletive),” the transcript said.


Brandt also told dispatchers he had to walk away from the scene of the crash to get a signal on his cellphone so he could call 911, according to the transcript. A state patrol report that suggested Brandt should be charged with failure to immediately report the crash noted Brandt left the scene and returned to call 911, but it didn’t say why.

Brandt told dispatchers at the time of the call that Ellingson was breathing and moving, but “he’s hurt really badly,” the transcript said.

At one point, Brandt asked if he was going to prison, according to the transcript. He also said he almost ran away, the transcript said. “If it was a total accident, I wouldn’t be scared, but I know it was more than that,” Brandt said during the call.

A local medic showed up to the scene during the call and started talking with dispatchers, according to the transcript. Ellingson’s father also arrived at the scene around that time, the transcript said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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