North Dakota driver charged in fatal teen’s death says he intentionally hit teen after political argument

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A driver charged with fatally hitting a teenager in North Dakota reportedly told investigators he intentionally hit the teenager with his SUV after they had a political argument, according to court documents.

Cayler Ellingson, 18, was beaten to death after a street dance in McHenry early Sunday. The driver accused of hitting Ellingson in an alley, Shannon Brandt, 41, is charged in Foster County with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

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Cayler Ellingson

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Stutsman County Jail Records, where Brandt was being held, shows he posted $50,000 bond Tuesday and was released. His attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.

Brandt told investigators he left the scene after hitting Ellingson, returned briefly, called 911 and then left again, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The court document said Brandt told investigators he had been drinking alcohol before punching Ellingson and believed the teenager was encouraging people to hurt him after they argued and that he felt threatened. Ellingson was rushed to a hospital in Carrington, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators arrested Brandt at his home in Glenfield later Sunday. Officials said he agreed to a chemical breath test, which showed his blood-alcohol content was above 0.08%, the legal limit for driving.

Capt. Bryan Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, who helped investigate the death, said the political argument by Brandt has not been substantiated because the investigation is still ongoing and more witnesses need to be interviewed. The specific details of the alleged argument were not released.

Ellingson’s parents later told police they knew Brandt, but did not believe their son did it, the affidavit states. Ellingson’s mother described how she was on her way to pick up her son from McHenry when he called her around 2:40 a.m. asking if she knew Brandt. Ellingson called again a short time later, saying “that ‘he’ or ‘they’ were chasing him.” She could no longer reach him after that, the document said.

According to an initial news release from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, a Ford Explorer struck a pedestrian who “sustained serious injuries” and later died.

A GoFundMe for Ellingson had raised over $27,000 as of Thursday morning.

The site says Ellingson “went to heaven and will be missed by his mother, father, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins, many family and friends.”

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