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Deputy charged with hitting fleeing motorcyclist goes on trial

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- Trial is underway for a McKenzie County deputy accused of hitting a fleeing motorcyclist with his patrol car last year. A 12-person jury, selected Tuesday morning, heard opening arguments from attorneys and testimony from of...

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- Trial is underway for a McKenzie County deputy accused of hitting a fleeing motorcyclist with his patrol car last year.

A 12-person jury, selected Tuesday morning, heard opening arguments from attorneys and testimony from officers involved in a police pursuit last August.

Corporal Travis Bateman faces a charge of reckless endangerment, a Class C felony, in connection with the chase. Authorities allege that he drove into the path of the oncoming motorcyclist, causing the two vehicles to collide west of Watford City.

Bateman was one of three officers involved in the pursuit, which was initiated by the North Dakota Highway Patrol the night of Aug. 31.

Trooper Austin Hilzendeger testified Tuesday afternoon that he began tailing motorcyclist Richard Volk, 56, of Watford City, after Volk sped past him going the opposite direction at close to 100 miles per hour on Highway 85 South.

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Hilzendeger turned around and caught up to Volk as he turned onto Highway 85B, and the two continued eastbound, with Volk again reaching high speeds.

Video footage from Hilzendeger’s dashboard camera shows Volk eventually slowing and riding on the shoulder of the road.

At the same time, in response to the trooper’s radioed alert, Bateman and a Watford City police officer approached the scene from the west, driving in the opposite direction of Hilzendeger and Volk.

Bateman, Hilzendeger said, drove onto the eastbound shoulder towards Volk, then cut back into the eastbound lane, where Volk tried to drive around the patrol car. Instead, his Harley-Davidson clipped the side of the police vehicle. The impact knocked both Volk and his female passenger off the motorcycle.

Bateman is seen in the video kneeling by the injured woman, who suffered a broken leg, and asking her name, then telling Hilzendeger that he was stopped at the time of the crash.

Volk was seriously injured and flown to a hospital in Minot, where his blood alcohol level was .12 percent, above the legal limit of .08 percent, several hours after the incident, the trooper testified.

Volk will not testify during the trial, according to court records, based on his earlier testimony that he has no memory of the crash.

Watford City Police Officer Ryan Chaffee told the jury that he joined the pursuit behind Bateman, but did not see the crash because he continued straight after Bateman pulled into the opposite lane.

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“The only reason I did what I did is I thought that would be the safest place for me to go,” Chaffee told prosecutor Seymour Jordan.

Jordan, who is Divide County’s State’s Attorney, is serving as a special prosecutor for the case. McKenzie County State’s Attorney Jake Rodenbiker recused his office, along with both McKenzie County judges, citing ethical reasons. Southwest Judicial District Judge William Herauf is presiding over the trial, which is expected to wrap up before the end of the week.

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