Bellingham man sentenced for driving car at Dumpster diver

A Whatcom County man must spend six months in jail for assaulting a man with a car near a Bellingham animal hospital, a Superior Court judge ruled this week.

Jeffrey Steven Martin, 41, of Bellingham, got into an argument on the night of Sept. 20, 2015, with a man who was taking things out of a trash bin outside the Maplewood Animal Hospital, 2869 W. Maplewood Ave., according to charging papers.

Standing near his Mitsubishi sedan, Martin yelled at the man to “pick up the trash,” according to the county prosecutor’s office. The man, identified as Randall Miller, 27, shouted back with curse words and challenged Martin to fight. Martin got in his car and drove over the sidewalk into the parking lot of the animal hospital.

The sedan drove in circles, according to charging papers. Miller, meanwhile, threw rocks and concrete at the Mitsubishi. He later claimed he was trying to defend himself, because he thought the driver would kill him. Witnesses called 911.

Martin also was convicted of DUI in 1997, driving with a suspended license in 1998 and 2006, attempting to elude law enforcement in 1992, and hit and run of an unattended vehicle in 2014.

According to the charges:

Miller told officers he was struck by the sedan. Police noted blood coming from his mouth, and scrapes on his hands and knees. That night Martin denied hitting the man with his car, but he acknowledged driving in circles in the parking lot and speeding up as he passed the man. He told police he hit the gas because Miller was throwing rocks.

Police arrested Martin on suspicion of assault in the first degree and driving with a license suspended in the third degree.

Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn said he’s confident Martin wanted to scare Miller, but it wasn’t clear if he meant to run him over. Miller may have been hit by a “glancing blow” from the car, Quinn added. Miller did not show up in court this week.

At the time of his arrest Martin had another unresolved felony case where he was accused of vehicular assault for causing a crash May 10, 2011, on Bennett Drive.

That night he made a left turn from McLeod Road onto Bennett, cutting off the path of a southbound motorcyclist, 24. The biker collided with the passenger side of the ’92 Nissan Maxima. He suffered fractures in his foot and ankle.

Martin told a state trooper that he drank a beer after the crash because he was nervous. Later on, when a breath test gauged his blood-alcohol level at 0.136, he stated he drank a beer and two shots of liquor about an hour beforehand, according to charging papers.

Martin pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, to one count of felony assault in the third degree for the 2015 case, and vehicular assault — for driving with disregard for the safety of others, not necessarily under the influence of alcohol — for the 2011 crash. Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder approved a plea deal ordering him to serve a total of six months.

Martin has a history of driving offenses dating back to 1992, when he was found guilty of attempting to elude law enforcement. He was convicted of DUI in 1997, driving with a suspended license in 1998 and 2006, and hit and run of an unattended vehicle in 2014. He’s also twice been convicted of misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb