BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota sheriff's deputy killed last week in the line of duty was remembered on Wednesday for his love of family, the outdoors and his camaraderie with veterans and emergency responders.
Law enforcement officers from around North Dakota filled a high school gymnasium for the funeral of Mercer County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Martin. His flag-draped casket lay amid poinsettias and other plants. Martin, 53, died Dec. 6 as the result of a crash involving U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer's adult son, who was fleeing police during a mental health crisis.
His funeral at the Beulah high school was followed by a procession of emergency responders through town.
“He gave his final breath in the brave defense of others, others in this room, others in this community, others well beyond, and we will never forget. That is our pledge,” North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley told mourners.
Martin's loss has shaken the community, where even people he arrested praised him. Chaplain Philip Nelson said, “When the call came, Paul answered. When chaos threatened his community, there was no question where he would be. He was with his brothers, he fulfilled his duty and he held the line.”
An obituary for Martin said he began his career in law enforcement in the Army as a military police K-9 officer, followed by years with the Mercer and Nelson county sheriffs' departments and the Beulah and Hazen police departments. He worked with his K-9 partner Goliath for seven years in Mercer County and, after the dog retired, Goliath “enjoyed napping on Paul’s feet when Paul came home from work and going for rides in the pickup,” according to Martin's obituary. He also enjoyed the outdoors, including hunting and fishing.
Beulah tow truck operator Lucky Buchmann said Martin was one of the most energetic people he knew. He took his job seriously but had a bubbly outlook on life, Buchmann said.
“I've never seen anybody else like him. It wasn't a drag. His world was not a drag. He was high on life,” said Buchmann, who worked with Martin on towing calls, from nighttime blizzards and icy roads to treacherous lake shoreline. He plans to park his tow truck, with lights on, along the procession route to honor Martin.
Martin is survived by his wife of seven years, three children and four grandchildren. He will be interred at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.
Windows of the state Capitol tower, which had been lighted green and red in the shape of a Christmas tree, displayed a blue line on the building's upper stories on Tuesday night in Martin's honor, and will shine again on Wednesday night. Dignitaries at the funeral included the attorney general, Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller and former Gov. Ed Schafer.
Bismarck police and Sen. Kevin Cramer said the senator's son Ian Cramer was having a mental health issue when he took a family vehicle and fled a Bismarck hospital, crashing through the door of an ambulance bay. His sister tracked the vehicle by a cellphone. Officers found him in Hazen, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Bismarck, but he fled at over 100 mph (160 kph) on a state highway, even with two tires flattened from a Beulah police officer's spiked device, according to court documents.
Martin and Beulah Police Chief Frank Senn had deployed more tire deflation devices and had taken cover behind their vehicles before the crash, according to court documents. Authorities say Ian Cramer swerved and crashed head-on into Martin's squad car, pushing the vehicle into Martin “and launching him for about 100 feet” (30 meters). He landed in a ditch.
Martin was pronounced dead at a Hazen hospital. Ian Cramer was evaluated at a hospital then jailed. He has been charged with multiple counts, including manslaughter, fleeing a police officer and reckless endangerment.
A state district court judge on Friday set Cramer a $500,000 cash bond and ordered a mental health evaluation. His public defender was appointed Monday. His attorney did not return a phone message for comment about the case. Cramer is in jail in nearby Washburn, North Dakota.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican 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 family and colleagues. He said his family grieves with “the family of the hero who tried to help Ian.”
He wrote that his son “suffers from serious mental disorders which manifest in severe paranoia and hallucinations.”
Ian Cramer's mother, Kris Cramer, took him to the hospital after he insisted on “going to his brother Ike,” who died in 2018, according to the senator's statement.
Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.