March 29, 2016

Deputy pleads not guilty to Reckless Endangerment

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

A McKenzie County Sheriff’s  deputy who was charged with Reckless Endangerment last year pled not guilty on Monday, March 21, in a McKenzie County courtroom.
Cpl. Travis Bateman was accused last summer of purposefully hitting a speeding motorcyclist with his patrol vehicle following a high speed pursuit near Watford City on Aug. 31, 2015. He was officially charged in December, following a three and a half-month investigation.
“I stand behind Travis Bateman 100 percent,” stated McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger. “I reviewed the footage from the body cam and didn’t see anything criminal in nature. I trust everything will be justified in the end. But until he is proven guilty by a jury of his peers, I will stand by him.”
During Monday’s hearing, the lead investigator and a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Craig Sandusky, testified that video taken from a patrol car and another officer’s body camera shows Bateman intentionally hitting the motorcyclist with his patrol vehicle during the incident in question. He testified that Bateman was seen shrugging his shoulders and dismissing the incident.
Bateman’s defense attorney, Michael Geiermann, however, argued that footage of the crash appeared to show Bateman’s car at a standstill at the moment the motorcycle hit his patrol vehicle.
“Bateman turned first into the lane and Volk reacts to that and still tries to evade,” said Geiermann. “He is stopped and Volk runs into him. The video speaks for itself.”
Richard Volk of Watford City, the motorcyclist, was reportedly driving 97 miles per hour southbound on U.S. Highway 85, near Watford City.   As he passed a North Dakota State Trooper, a high speed pursuit ensued. When the motorcyclist didn’t stop for the trooper, additional units were notified including the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office. Bateman responded and started heading toward the trooper’s location.
Court documents allege that upon observing the trooper’s vehicle, Bateman entered the opposite lane of traffic’s shoulder so that his patrol vehicle and the trooper’s patrol vehicle were facing each other. The report states that Bateman turned with the motorcyclist, resulting in a crash.
Fifty-five-year-old Volk suffered multiple broken bones and a skull fracture. His passenger, a female, suffered a broken leg.
Bateman, who was charged in December of 2015, is still actively employed by the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office, but has been assigned to administrative duties until the case concludes.
Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan is prosecuting the case and Southwest Judicial District Judge William Herauf is presiding over the case, which is being held in McKenzie County. A jury trial is set for June 21.