Cayler Ellingson was a North Dakota man who was murdered in a politically motivated attack because of his Republican views, prosecutors say.
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $34,000 in Ellingson’s memory.
Court records call it a “politically motivated attack,” according to The Grand Forks Herald.
The case has become a political football with top Republicans weighing in. “Leftist murders a teenager because he was a Republican. Then, he’s promptly released on bail. Twisted. Dems’ hateful rhetoric continues to bear toxic fruit,” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted. Donald Trump Jr. also tweeted about the death, attaching it to President Joe Biden.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shannon Brandt Is Accused of Striking Ellingson, a Pedestrian who Was Studying to Be an Ultrasound Tech, With His Ford Explorer at a Street Dance
According to Ellingson’s Facebook page, he worked at Dollar General and was studying diagnostic medical sonography to be an ultrasound tech in Bismarch, North Dakota. He went to Carrington High School and lives in Grace City, North Dakota.
He had just started college on August 8, 2022, according to his page.
According to a news release from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, on September 18, 2022, “a street dance was occurring in the city of McHenry located in Foster County,” the North Dakota Highway Patrol wrote in a news release.
“At approximately 2:55 AM a Ford Explorer being operated by Shannon Brandt struck a pedestrian walking on Jones Street directly east of Hohneck street in the city of McHenry. The pedestrian Cayler Ellingson sustained serious injuries and was transported to the Carrington hospital by ambulance. Ellingson later died from injuries sustained in the collision.”
The North Dakota Highway Patrol, and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal investigations “are investigating the circumstances and events that led up to the death of Ellingson. Brandt was charged with DUI related Vehicular Homicide and leaving the scene of a crash involving a fatality,” the release says. “Further charges may be considered pending the ongoing investigation.”
2. The GoFundMe Page Says Ellingson Was ‘the Heart’ of His Parents’ Life
Hi, I’m a lifelong Family Friend of Cayler’s Mom Sheri Larson Ellingson. Sheri and my younger sister were very close friends I had spent many years with Sheri and as the years we grew older and Sheri was united in marriage with her Husband Cole Ellingson and they made their home in Grace City ND, raising two wonderful and loving Sons, Chase and Cayler. Chase and Cayler are the heart of Sheri and Coles life. Unfortunately, in the early hours on Sunday, September 18, 2022 their lives changed forever. Cayler was taken way too soon from them… A thing no parent should ever have to endure in their life, is to lose a child. Cayler has went to heaven and will be missed by his Mom, Dad, Brother, Uncles, Aunts, cousins many Family and Friends. With this being said I would like to set a goal to help Sheri, Cole and Chase with Funeral expenses and anything to help them through this whole grieving process. Sheri is a Carrington ND graduate in my home town along with Chase and Cayler. Cole grew up in the Grace City area. Please lend a helping hand to help this family in such a huge and tragic loss of Cayler. God Blessings and Prayers to all of Cayler’s Family and Friends.
The page also posted this update:
We have now over doubled our fundraising goal in Honor of Cayler and the wonderful young man he was. I thank each and everyone of you personally and I know the Family of Cayler’s does as well. Thank you for honoring and supporting Cayler for who he truly was. A young man with his whole adult life ahead of himself. So much stripped away from himself and from his family. They now have to endure a path no parent wants, no parent should have to endure. His innocent life he had yet to look forward to and live for. His parents will never see their young son graduate college, get married or have grandchildren. It’s all come down to thee worst nightmare or call any of us parents want or should ever have to go through.
Please let me thank you for the family and know that they feel the heartfelt messages, generosity and kindness from all of you! It’s hard for them to explain at this moment in time. But know how loved they feel from each and everyone of you in honoring their son Cayler.
3. Brandt Told Police He ‘Had a Political Argument’ With Ellingson, Accusing Ellingson of Being ‘Part of a Republican Extremist Group,’ Authorities Say
According to CNN, Brandt told authorities s he felt threatened and “admitted to striking the pedestrian with his car because he had a political argument with the pedestrian and believed the pedestrian was calling people to come get him.”
According to CNN, Brandt left the scene, but he returned and called 911 and then left again. Court records accuse Brandt of telling authorities that Ellingson was “part of a Republican extremist group,” according to CNN.
His blood-alcohol content “registered 0.08, above the legal limit for alcohol,” CNN reported.
Online court records say Brandt is from McHenry, North Dakota.
4. Ellingson Called His Mom as the Incident Was Unfolding
According to CBS News, Ellingson’s parents later “told police they knew Brandt, but they did not believe their son did.”
His mom told authorities her son called her about 2:40 a.m. to ask whether she knew Brandt.
He then called back and said “that ‘he’ or ‘they’ were chasing him,” CBS reported.
5. Brandt Was Freed on Bail After Telling the Judge He Didn’t Want His Job, Life & House ‘Go By the Wayside’
According to jail records, Brandt was released on $50,000 bail.
The charges listed in jail records are criminal vehicular homicide – OWI, causing death or injury.
“I have a job, a life and a house and things I don’t want to see go by the wayside—family that are very important to me,” Brandt said at his first court hearing.
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