Republicans Are Furious a Driver Was Released After Killing ‘Extremist’ Teen

The man who admitted to hitting an 18-year-old with his car said the teen was a “Republican extremist.” Authorities have found no evidence of that.
Shannon Brandt is shown in this undated handout photo from the Stutsman County, North Dakota, Sheriff’s Office. (Stutsman County, N.D., Sheriff’s Office via AP)

A man who killed a teenager who he believed was a “Republican extremist” has been released on bail, and the case is quickly becoming a flash point for the GOP.

Eighteen-year-old Cayler Ellingson was intentionally hit with a car by 41-year-old Shannon Brandt in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 in McHenry, North Dakota. The teen later died of his injuries at the hospital. Brandt admitted to hitting Ellingson and has been charged with DUI-related vehicular homicide as well as leaving the scene of a crime.


Brandt initially left the scene then returned and called 911, when he admitted to hitting the teen. In the call, Brandt stated that the two had a political argument and that he believed Ellingson was part of a “Republican extremist group” and was calling friends to attack him. 

Captain Bryan Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol told VICE News that their “investigation has not found any evidence to support the claim Shannon Brandt made on the 911 call that Cayler Ellingson is a ‘Republican extremist.’”

“In addition, we have not uncovered any evidence, except Brandt’s statement, that this crime involved politics,” he added. 

In a probable cause affidavit, published by Law and Crime, Ellingson called his parents before being run over to ask if they knew Brandt—Ellingson’s parents did know Brandt but their son did not. He called back shortly after that to say Brandt was chasing him.

Brandt was later arrested at his home where he was breathalyzed and found to be over the legal limit. Brandt has since been released on $50,000 bail

Ellingson’s death came just weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden gave a fiery speech about fightingthe current iteration of the Republican Party. “Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said, adding that it’s citizens’ duty to “confront extremists.” 


Unsurprisingly, Bradnt’s use of the term “Republican extremist” in his 911 call caught the attention of several high-profile Republicans. 

“Leftist murders a teenager because he was a Republican. Then, he’s promptly released on bail,” tweeted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “Twisted. Dems’ hateful rhetoric continues to bear toxic fruit.”

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Brandt a “left-wing political terrorist” and compared him getting bail to the plight of January 6 rioters, something she frequently comments upon. 

Even former President Trump mentioned Ellingson in a recent speech that railed against the perceived lack of media coverage. 

“Think of it the other way,” Trump said. “Think of it the other way. Supposing a mad person ran down somebody on the other side, it would be the biggest story you've ever seen. It's a disgrace."

Social media posts on multiple platforms are also raking up likes as influencers use Ellingson’s death to rile up their audience. “Brandt did what Joe Biden instructed all of his supporters,” posted the person with a Twitter account with over 113,000 followers. 

Ellingson was described as having a big heart and a kindness about him. He was just about to go to school to train to be an ultrasound technician. Outcryings of support have come in for the family who had $50,000 raised for them in a GoFundMe campaign, and his high school recently held a moment of silence for the slain teen. 

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.