Senator’s son faces upgraded homicide charge in crash that killed North Dakota sheriff’s deputy

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — New charges approved Thursday against the 42-year-old son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer included an upgraded homicide count in a crash that killed a North Dakota sheriff’s deputy.

Ian Cramer initially faced a manslaughter charge related to the Dec. 6 death of Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Martin on a highway near Hazen. A judge on Thursday approved new charges that amend that offense to homicide while fleeing a peace officer, and add drug charges.

The homicide charge says the death was caused negligently rather than recklessly, and brings higher maximum penalties than manslaughter — up to 20 years in prison and a possible $20,000 fine.

Cramer still faces counts of fleeing a police officer, preventing arrest and reckless endangerment. The drug charges include possession of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He is charged with nine offenses, including four felonies.

Cramer, who is in jail, is set for a court appearance on Monday. His attorney did not immediately return a phone message for comment.

Authorities who searched the vehicle, impounded since the crash, say they found several grams of meth, cocaine and marijuana in a backpack, as well as baggies, rolled up dollar bills, smoking devices and lighters, as well as Arizona jail booking paperwork for Ian Cramer.

His mother was driving him around on the afternoon of the day of the crash, and stopped at his home and he retrieved items including the backpack, according to court documents.

Mercer County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said in court on Friday he intended to add drug charges. He did not immediately return a message left at his office.

At that court appearance, District Judge Bobbi Weiler set a $500,000 cash bond, which prosecutors requested, and ordered a mental health evaluation.

The senator, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, has said in a statement that his son was having a mental health issue when he fled from a Bismarck hospital in the family’s vehicle. Cramer’s mother had driven him there over concerns about his mental health, police said. When she got out of the SUV, Cramer took the wheel and crashed through a door to get out of an enclosed ambulance bay.

Deputies in Mercer County later 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 a spiked device flattened two tires, authorities said. About 5 miles (8 kilometers) outside of Hazen, more spikes were set up and Cramer swerved and then crashed head-on into Martin’s squad car, launching him about 100 feet (30 meters), according to charging documents.

Martin was an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office. He was married with three children and four grandchildren.

Kevin Cramer, who was elected to the Senate in 2018 after serving three terms in the House, said in a statement that his son “suffers from serious mental disorders which manifest in severe paranoia and hallucinations.”

In 2013, Ian Cramer was charged with misdemeanor simple assault for injuring his brother’s head; he pleaded guilty. His record also includes a guilty plea for assaulting his brother, driving under the influence, several traffic citations. Schwarz said Cramer is also suspected in a Houston assault.