BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer was charged Thursday with manslaughter and fleeing an officer after a police pursuit ended in a crash that killed a North Dakota sheriff’s deputy who was laying down a tire deflation device, according to online court records.
Ian Cramer is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Friday. Online records show he was charged with felony counts of manslaughter, fleeing a police officer and reckless endangerment, as well as a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license.
An attorney wasn’t listed for him in the court docket.
Ian Cramer, of Bismarck, was driven by his mother to a hospital at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday over concerns about his mental health, Bismarck police said. When she got out of the SUV, Ian Cramer took the wheel and drove through a door to get out of the enclosed ambulance bay at the hospital’s emergency department.
Over an hour later, a deputy in neighboring Mercer County spotted Cramer and the Chevrolet Tahoe in Hazen, a community about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Bismarck. The North Dakota Highway Patrol said in a news release that a chase then began.
Charging documents allege Ian Cramer was traveling in excess of 100 mph. His two driver’s side tires were reportedly flattened by a Beulah police officer’s tire deflation device on the highway. Beulah Chief of Police Frank Senn and Deputy Paul Martin, 53, took cover behind their patrol cars after more tire deflation devices were deployed, court documents said.
Cramer swerved on the highway and collided head-on with the patrol vehicle, pushing it “directly into Martin’s person and launching him for about 100 feet,” according to charging documents. Martin, 53, was killed in the crash.
Cramer was evaluated at a hospital and then jailed.
“We ask the public for prayers for the lost officer’s family and colleagues who serve us every day and are grateful for all they do for us,” Kevin Cramer said in a statement. He declined an interview “out of respect for the officer’s family.”
The first-term Republican senator wrote that his son “suffers from serious mental disorders which manifest in severe paranoia and hallucinations.” Earlier Wednesday, Ian Cramer insisted on “going to his brother Ike,” who died in 2018, according the statement, which doesn’t further explain what that means.
Alarmed, Kris Cramer took her son to the Sanford Health emergency room in Bismarck. While parked in the ambulance bay, “Ian got into the driver’s seat and allegedly rammed the doors of the bay and fled the scene,” Bismarck police said.
The senator’s daughter tracked the SUV through a cellphone and alerted authorities. The patrol said that when a Mercer County deputy spotted Ian Cramer in Hazen and approached him, Cramer fled. The crash happened a short time later on North Dakota Highway 200, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) outside of Hazen.
Martin was an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, which said he was married and had three children.
In a post to the sheriff’s office Facebook page, Mercer County Sheriff Terry Ternes said Martin “is our beloved brother in law enforcement, a husband, father, and grandpa. Our wound is raw, and our hearts are broken.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum directed government agencies to fly flags at half-staff in honor of Martin until sunset on the day he is interred. He encouraged residents to do the same.
The hospital in Bismarck sustained damage to the main entrance to its emergency department’s vehicle and ambulance garage, according to Sanford Health Bismarck. The entrance is temporarily out of service, with a temporary entrance since set up. No one was injured, the hospital said.
Whitney Zeadow, 36, who lives near Hazen, said Martin was once her neighbor; she sometimes cared for the retired police dogs he kept when he was away from home.
“He was just a fantastic man,” Zeadow said, fighting back tears. “He was the type that would be your champion. He was just there to support the community, help the kids. Any little thing. He was just a joy to be around.”
Kevin Cramer was elected to the Senate in 2018 after serving three terms in the House. He has been a staunch advocate for law enforcement.
In an opinion article posted on the Fox News website in 2020 during turmoil that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Cramer defended police.
“While imperfect, police officers are still heroes,” he wrote. “They wake up every day ready to put their lives on the line to keep their friends and neighbors safe.”
In his statement Wednesday, Cramer said that his family grieves with “the family of the hero who tried to help Ian,” a reference to Martin.
In 2013, Ian Cramer was charged with misdemeanor simple assault for allegedly injuring his brother’s head; he pleaded guilty. His record also includes several traffic citations during this and last year, some as recent as the day before the crash, for driving under suspension. Bismarck Police Lt. Luke Gardiner said the Tuesday citation has no connection to Wednesday’s events.
The Cramer family has endured tragedy before.
Isaac “Ike” Cramer in 2007 began dating a woman who was the mother of an infant, Abel. Three years later, the woman was killed by her estranged husband. Kevin and Kris Cramer adopted the child, who is now a teenager. Cramer also has two daughters and six grandchildren, according to his Senate website.
In 2018, soon after Kevin Cramer announced his run for the Senate, Ike Cramer died from liver and kidney failure following a long battle with alcohol addiction. He was 35.
Kevin Cramer wrote on Facebook at the time that he and his wife were bedside when he “took his last breath on Earth. Now Isaac feels no anxiety or urging for alcohol. He feels no pain and will never be depressed again.”
Following Martin’s death, among those posting on the sheriff department’s Facebook page were those who said the deputy had taken them to jail. They described him as a friendly person and said he was always respectful.
Zeadow said Martin was among the officers who responded when she needed help.
“And he made sure to keep my kids and I very safe,” she said, adding, “It doesn’t seem real just yet, but it’s hitting.”
Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.