North Dakota man pleads guilty to fatal hit-and-run in case that drew political attention

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota man who initially claimed that he ran over and killed an 18-year-old after a political argument pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter, prosecutors said.

Shannon Brandt, of Glenfield, North Dakota, was initially charged with murder in the September 2022 death of Cayler Ellingson during a street dance in McHenry, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Bismarck.

The case drew attention on social media because Brandt initially said he ran over Ellingson, who he called a Republican extremist, after an argument about politics.

Investigators have said the disagreement was not political, and there was no evidence to show that Ellingson was a member of a Republican extremist group.

Foster County State Attorney Kara Brinster said in a news release Thursday that Brandt had been drinking and argued with Ellingson before driving erratically and knocking the victim down with his car and running over his legs and torso.

A probable cause affidavit said Brandt left the scene and was visibly intoxicated when authorities found him at his home in Glenfield.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Brandt remains free on bond pending sentencing. He faces up to 10 years in prison.