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US Sen. Kevin Cramer's son makes court appearance after crash that killed North Dakota deputy

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — The 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen.
This photo shows where the main entrance of the Sanford Health Emergency Department's vehicle and ambulance garage sustained damage Wednesday in connection with Ian Cramer driving away from the hospital in Bismarck, N.D., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. Cramer, the son of Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, is in jail after allegedly crashing into a Mercer County sheriff's vehicle near Hazen and killing Deputy Paul Martin, 53. No one was injured at the hospital, according to Sanford Health Bismarck. (AP Photo/Jack Dura)

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — The 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer made his first court appearance Friday on manslaughter and other charges after authorities say he fled from police and crashed into a squad car, killing a North Dakota sheriff's deputy who was taking cover behind the vehicle.

Ian Cramer, of Bismarck, faces 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.

Cramer did not enter a plea on Friday — that will happen at a later hearing. He appeared in court remotely via videoconference from jail in a neighboring county. District Judge Bobbi Weiler set a $500,000 cash bond, which prosecutors requested, and ordered a mental health evaluation.

Mercer County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz cited Cramer's criminal record in other states when asking for the cash bond, and said he intends to file additional drug-related charges for possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and baggies of paraphernalia.

“We have a multistate offender, we have an extremely serious situation, looks like it’s complicated with drug usage. As a result, we have a dead police officer," Schwartz said.

Cramer, who appeared without an attorney, said he had been receiving mental health treatment from Sanford Health before his arrest, and was working at a Bismarck pizza restaurant. When asked if he understood his rights, he told the judge he had “a little bit of a head injury going on, so it’s really hard to focus right now."

Sen. Kevin Cramer declined an interview after charges were filed on Thursday, 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 the senator'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 (160 kph) 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 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'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.

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.

This is not Ian Cramer's first brush with the law. 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 the day before the crash, for driving with a suspended license. Schwarz said Cramer has an active warrant in Houston for assault and evading arrest and a 2008 conviction in Montana for “negligent endangerment with substantial risk of death," among other cases.

Ian Cramer's two sisters declined to comment outside of the courtroom after his appearance.

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.

Jack Dura, The Associated Press