MANDAN, N.D. — 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.”
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.
Earlier Thursday, Sen. Kevin 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 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 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 from nearby Beulah had used a tire deflation device, which flattened two of Cramer’s tires, but he kept driving on North Dakota Highway 200. About 5 miles outside of Hazen, 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 allegedly started to run away after the crash. Senn subdued him on the ground and was injured as Cramer resisted, according to court documents.
Martin was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Cramer was evaluated at a hospital then jailed.
Ian Cramer’s father, a first-term Republican senator, wrote that his son “suffers from serious mental disorders which manifest in severe paranoia and hallucinations.”
On Wednesday, Ian Cramer had 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. Alarmed, Kris Cramer then took her son to the ER.
In 2013, Ian Cramer was charged with misdemeanor simple assault for allegedly 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 and last, including one as recent as the day before the crash, for driving with a suspended license.
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.”
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. He also has 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.
In his statement Wednesday, Cramer said that his family grieves with “the family of the hero who tried to help Ian.”
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.
After Martin’s death, some who posted on the sheriff’s department’s Facebook page said the deputy had taken them to jail. They described him as a friendly person and said he was always respectful.
Cody Schank said he wound up in jail himself but still praised Martin.
In a private message sent to The Associated Press, Schank wrote: “Paul will be missed deeply and by many, it’s a terrible situation, and very sad it had to happen to such a kind hearted soul such as his.”