Driver to Bellingham cop: ‘I was trying to hit and kill you’

A Bellingham man faces a first-degree assault charge for nearly running over a police officer early Friday, Jan. 9, in downtown Bellingham.

After he was arrested, Darrin James Rankin, 40, told Officer James Walker: “I was trying to hit and kill you because that’s your job, right? To lay down your life to protect citizens?” according to a Bellingham Police media release.

Rankin had been driving a maroon ’96 Acura Integra west on West Holly Street around 2:30 a.m. when he spotted Walker’s patrol car going east, uphill toward downtown. Rankin honked his horn at the car and flashed his lights. Walker, a Bellingham police officer for the past three years, pulled over. Rankin pulled a U-turn by the intersection of West Holly and West Champion streets to get behind the patrol car.

Walker, 26, got out to see what the trouble was. Suddenly Rankin backed up, “gunned the engine,” and tried to run over the policeman, according to police. Walker dodged the oncoming Acura. He got back in his cruiser and chased Rankin’s car through downtown Bellingham, sometimes going the wrong way on one-way streets, at around 35 mph.

The chase circled through downtown. Eventually, Rankin headed farther west. Once they reached a straightaway on Squalicum Way, Walker bumped the front corner of his patrol car into the back panel of the Acura — a PIT maneuver (Pursuit Intervention Technique), in police jargon — spinning Rankin’s car out of control. Still, Rankin refused to give up until officers sent in a police dog, Danek. Rankin had bite marks on his arm from trying to fight off the dog, according to police.

Rankin is not suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was booked into jail at 3:10 a.m. on suspicion of assault in the first degree, attempting to elude a police vehicle, reckless driving and obstructing a police officer.

None of the six or so officers who joined in the Friday morning chase were wearing body cameras, said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht. (Last year the Bellingham Police Department signed a contract to equip some of its officers with body-worn cameras.)

Police did not draw their guns or Tasers on Rankin, Vander Yacht said.

In a jail courtroom on Friday afternoon, Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross explained Rankin’s rights to him, and the consequences of being found guilty of assault in the first degree.

“You know that if you’re convicted of it, you could receive from 20 years to life in prison and up to a $500,000 fine,” Gross said. “That’s just the maximum.”

“OK, go back then,” Rankin said. “I’m — going — to plead — guilty.”

“I don’t have time to take a plea today,” Gross said. “This is going to have to go before one of the judges.”

Gross asked Rankin if he understood what he’s accused of.

“I’ll try to work with this crazy monkey trial,” he replied. She asked again. He said, “I know this is a mock trial.”

Moments later, deputy prosecutor Christopher Quinn soberly outlined some conditions if Rankin manages to post $250,000 bail: no driving, no weapons, no drugs, no alcohol.

As Quinn finished talking, Rankin blurted out: “I agree with everything he says! That guy is the one I’m rooting for.”

Rankin’s public defender, Darrin Hall, asked the judge Friday to order a mental health evaluation in the next 24 hours.

Rankin has no felony convictions in Washington state. He’d been charged with two felonies, harassment and assault in the third degree, for physically and verbally abusing a nurse at St. Joseph hospital in July 2007, when he was detained on an involuntary mental health hold. The nurse tried to loosen Rankin’s four-point restraints so he could sit up, but he grabbed at her, tore her blouse and made vague threats about rape, according to charging papers. Eventually, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

In the meantime, he was contacted by police several times in one week — for “yelling and acting bizarre,” “malicious mischief and assault” and “disorderly conduct” — according to Bellingham police logs from September 2007.

Rankin hadn’t been booked into the local jail since then.

On his Facebook page, however, Rankin recently posted about what he calls corruption in the local justice system.

“It is about time the police started treating us with some dignity and respect,” Rankin posted last month. “I have been harassed and badgered by them too many times. I see that it is even much worse for others in the U.S. from minority backgrounds of all types. It the police are as abusive and oppressive to me being a educated, white male. I can only imagine how they are to others. In fact, I don't have to imagine it I see it everyday on the streets of Bellingham, WA. We need good cops not more bad cops with bad policing practices.”

Correction on Friday, Jan. 9. A typo in a number stated by Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross was corrected.