Driver faces first-degree assault charge for ramming ex’s car in Bellingham

A Whatcom County man accused of ramming his Jeep into his ex-girlfriend’s car faces a charge of first-degree assault, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

An ex-girlfriend noticed James Allen Pursley, 26, was tailing her red Honda Civic around 3 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 27, just east of the Bellingham International Airport, according to the sheriff’s office.

She pulled into a gas station parking lot off of Bennett Drive and opened the driver’s side door. Pursley, in a light-colored Jeep Cherokee, came at her at a “high rate of speed,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Doug Chadwick. The Jeep slammed into and broke the driver’s door on the Honda. The woman, 26, jumped out of the way in the nick of time, according to a deputy’s report. She wasn’t hurt. Another man in the Honda wasn’t hurt either.

Pursley reversed and sped off, Chadwick said. Sheriff’s deputies couldn’t find him Saturday morning. Twenty-four hours later, on Sunday, Bellingham police found Pursley and arrested him in Roosevelt neighborhood.

It’s not clear what might have angered Pursley, although deputies noted there had been a dispute over property that he thought should be returned to him.

Prosecutors plan to charge him with domestic violence assault in the first degree for using the Jeep as a deadly weapon, according to records from his first appearance in court Monday.

Pursley has a criminal history. He was sentenced to a month in jail earlier this year for possessing two pen tubes caked with heroin residue in his pockets and — hidden in the driver’s side door of a red 2003 Honda Civic he’d driven to Rodeway Inn — a 2.4-gram chunk of heroin. His 6-year-old daughter was in the car with him at the time, along with a six-time felon who was wanted on warrants. While awaiting trial, Pursley jumped bail. He pleaded guilty in January.

At the time of his arrest this weekend, he was out of jail on bond in two more felony cases, both involving guns. Shortly after the sentencing in January, his probation officer went to Pursley’s house in the 2100 block of Mount Baker Highway and found a semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle, according to charging papers. Pursley was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

A few months later, in April, a state trooper pulled Pursley over and arrested him for driving with a suspended license. A small baggie of heroin was found in the center console of the car, and a syringe was found under the driver’s seat, next to a stolen 9 mm pistol, according to the charges. Again, his child was in the car.

“The defendant denied knowledge of any of the contraband in the vehicle,” according to charging papers from that case. “On the way to jail the defendant advised that he would be going to prison.”

Pursley remained in jail Tuesday in lieu of $65,000 bond.