LISTEN: Entire 911 call Shannon Brandt made after allegedly killing Cayler Ellingson

The defense argues the seventeen minute call shows the very drunk teenager was the aggressor, and Shannon Brandt was trying to get away for his own safety.

41-year-old Shannon Brandt, left, and 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson.
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CARRINGTON, N.D. — The public is getting a rare look at a Foster County murder investigation that has made national headlines.

Forty-one-year-old Shannon Brandt, of Glenfield, is charged with the murder of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson, of Grace City, back in September.

It happened after a street dance in McHenry.

Troopers say Brandt ran over Ellingson with his SUV, crushing the college student's chest.

Prosecutors admit they have not found a motive for the murder, and nobody really knows what happened in the alley around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.


Mark Friese of Vogel Law Firm is representing Brandt.

He requested a copy of the 911 call his client made that morning, claiming it helps put into perspective what really may have happened between the man and teenager.

Normally, 911 calls do not fall under North Dakota's open records laws. However, in this case, it was filed as evidence with the court, making it a public record.

WDAY's Matt Henson obtained the entire 17-minute call.

Editor's note: Shannon Brandt's cell phone number was deleted for safety purposes.

During the call, Brandt appears to be frantic, asking for an ambulance to be sent right away. He says the 18-year-old is moaning and appears to have a serious leg injury.

He offers to provide first aid, but the dispatcher advises not to.

When asked by the dispatcher what happened, Brandt claims Ellingson jumped on the hood of his SUV and would not let him leave town.


Brandt claimed Ellingson babbled something about a Republican extremist group and that he called people to "come handle him."

Originally, troopers said the incident was a political fight. In the months since, they and prosecutors have said that was not the case.

That initial report caused a media frenzy. Former President Donald Trump even discussed the case on the campaign trail.

Later in the call, Brandt asked the dispatcher if he was going to prison. He also apologized, later admitting Ellingson was only in front of his SUV, not on it.

He also went on to say, “If it was a total accident, I wouldn’t be scared, but I know it was more than that.”

Prosecutors say that statement supports the murder charge.

Brandt's lawyer argued his client suffers from a condition, and he doesn't always communicate clearly.

Friese said the tape shows Brandt was clearly in fear of his life and tried to escape, but Ellingson would not let him.


Brandt is also accused of leaving the scene of the crash before calling for help, though his lawyer said that was because he was trying to get cell service.

In the recording of the 911 call, the dispatcher has problems hearing Brandt due to the poor cell service.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations admitted they never dusted the hood of Brandt's SUV to see if Ellingson jumped on it.

According to Friese, the medical examiner, who also sought the opinion of a handful of other doctors in his office, concluded the collision was an accident, not a homicide.

Prosecutors downplayed that ruling.

The BCI said it has not looked into how Ellingson got so drunk at the bar that night. According to court records his blood alcohol content was 0.20%.

Troopers says Brandt also appeared intoxicated, but they have not released his blood alcohol content.

He was not charged with drunken driving.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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