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US Sen. Kevin Cramer's son charged with manslaughter in crash that killed North Dakota deputy

BISMARCK, 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)

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 had taken cover behind his squad car after laying a tire deflation device in the road, according to court documents.

Ian Cramer, of Bismarck, was traveling over 100 mph and already had two flat tires when he slammed head-on into Deputy Paul Martin's squad car on Wednesday, 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.

Ian Cramer is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday on multiple felony counts including manslaughter, fleeing a police officer and reckless endangerment. Court records did not list an attorney for him, and Sen. Kevin Cramer declined an interview after charges were filed out of respect for Martin's family.

Earlier Thursday, Cramer released a statement saying: “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.”

According to Bismarck police, Ian Cramer was driven by his mother to a hospital 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 at the hospital’s emergency department.

Over an hour later, a deputy in 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.

Initial efforts to stop Cramer didn't work. Charging documents say an officer in Beulah used a tire deflation device, which flattened two of Cramer's tires, but he kept driving on the highway. Beulah Chief of Police Frank Senn and Martin deployed more deflation devices and took cover behind their cars. Cramer swerved then hit Martin's vehicle.

Cramer was then taken into custody. He was evaluated at a hospital then jailed.

His father, a 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 to 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's department’s Facebook page were people 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.

Jack Dura And Jim Salter, The Associated Press