The 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer was expected to make his first court appearance Friday on manslaughter and other charges after he allegedly fled from authorities and crashed into a squad car, killing a North Dakota sheriff’s deputy who was taking cover behind the vehicle.
Ian Cramer, of Bismarck, was charged Thursday with multiple counts, including manslaughter, fleeing a police officer and reckless endangerment in connection with Wednesday’s pursuit and crash that killed 53-year-old Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Martin.
Sen. Kevin Cramer declined an interview after charges were filed, but released a statement earlier asking for prayers for Martin’s family. His statement also said his son was having a mental health issue Wednesday afternoon when he fled from a Bismarck hospital in the family’s vehicle.
Bismarck police said Ian Cramer’s mother drove him to Sanford Health emergency room in Bismarck at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday over concerns about his mental health. When she got out of the SUV, Cramer took the wheel and crashed through a door to get out of an enclosed ambulance bay.
One of Sen. Kevin Cramer’s daughters tracked the SUV through a cellphone and about an hour later deputies in Mercer County spotted Cramer in Hazen, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Bismarck, the North Dakota Highway Patrol said.
Cramer hit speeds of 100 mph and kept going even after an officer from nearby Beulah used a spiked device to flatten two of the Chevrolet Tahoe’s tires, authorities said.
About 5 miles (8.05 kilometers) outside of Hazen, Beulah Chief of Police Frank Senn and Martin deployed more tire deflation devices and took cover behind their cars. Cramer swerved and then crashed head-on into Martin’s squad car, launching him about 100 feet (30 meters), according to charging documents.
The 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and married father of three was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Cramer was evaluated at a hospital then jailed.
Cramer’s father, who was elected to the Senate in 2018 after serving three terms in the House, released a statement asking for prayers for the deputy’s families and colleagues. He said his family grieves with “the family of the hero who tried to help Ian.”
Kevin Cramer has been a staunch advocate for law enforcement and co-sponsored legislation to address shortages of mental health providers in schools and expand mental health care services for military families and veterans. Critics, however, say he has backed cuts that would put those with mental illness at risk of losing coverage.
He wrote that his son “suffers from serious mental disorders which manifest in severe paranoia and hallucinations.”
Ian Cramer’s mother took him to the hospital after he insisted on “going to his brother Ike,” who died in 2018, according to the senator’s statement, which doesn’t further explain what that means.
Isaac “Ike” Cramer’s was just 35 when he died from liver and kidney failure. His death, which came soon after his father announced his run for the Senate, followed a long battle with alcohol addiction and personal tragedy.
In 2007, Ike Cramer began dating a woman who was the mother of an infant, named 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.
Bismarck police continue to investigate what happened at the hospital with plans to send their reports and documents to the county prosecutor for potential charges.
This is not the first brush with the law for Ian Cramer. In 2013, he was charged with misdemeanor simple assault for injuring his brother’s head; he pleaded guilty. His record also includes a 2010 citation for driving under the influence in Arizona, and several traffic citations during this year and last, including one as recent as the day before the crash, for driving with a suspended license.
The loss of Martin, meanwhile, has rattled the community, where even people he arrested praised him. 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.”
Martin’s funeral will be held on Wednesday at the high school in Beulah. Gov. Doug Burgum has directed government agencies to fly flags at half-staff through Wednesday in Martin’s honor, and he encouraged residents to do the same.
Associated Press reporter Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.