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U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer’s son charged with manslaughter in crash that killed North Dakota deputy

A man with gray hair is wearing glasses.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) speaks during a 2020 hearing in Washington.
(Kevin Dietsch / Associated Press)
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The 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer was being chased by police when he crashed into a North Dakota sheriff’s vehicle, killing a deputy who was outside the vehicle and laying down road spikes, according to authorities and the senator’s family. Ian Cramer has been charged with manslaughter, according to court records.

He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance 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.

A deputy kneels in front of a vehicle, posing for a picture with a canine officer.
Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Martin with his retired K9 Goliath, who died in 2019. Martin, 53, died Wednesday.
(Mercer County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Cramer, of Bismarck, was driven by his mother to a hospital around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday over concerns about his mental health, Bismarck police said. When she got out of the SUV, her son took the wheel and drove through a door to get out of the enclosed ambulance bay at the hospital’s emergency department.

The senator’s daughter tracked the SUV through a cellphone and alerted the authorities. Officials said that when a Mercer County deputy spotted Ian Cramer in Hazen, about 70 miles northwest of Bismarck, and approached him, Cramer fled. The crash happened minutes later on North Dakota Highway 200.

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Charging documents allege that Cramer was traveling over 100 mph. His two driver’s side tires were reportedly flattened by a Beulah city police officer’s tire deflation device. Beulah Police Chief Frank Senn and Deputy Paul Martin, 53, took cover behind their cars after more tire deflation devices were deployed, court documents said.

Cramer’s vehicle swerved on the highway and collided head-on with the patrol vehicle, pushing it into Martin “and launching him for about 100 feet” and killing him, according to charging documents.

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,” Sen. 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. Alarmed, Kris Cramer took her son to the emergency room.

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Martin was an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, which said he was married and had three children.

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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, but no one was injured, according to Sanford Health in Bismarck.

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.”

Sen. Cramer was elected in 2018 after serving three terms in the House. He has been an advocate for law enforcement.

In his statement Wednesday, he said his family grieves with “the family of the hero who tried to help Ian,” a reference to Martin.

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In 2013, Ian Cramer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault over an injury to his brother. His record also includes several traffic citations in the last two years, including 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.”

After Martin’s death, among those posting on the Sheriff’s Office 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.”

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Salter reported from O’Fallon, Mo. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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