JEFFERSON, N.C.- Sheriff B. Phil Howell announces the arrest of two suspects in an early morning multi-county police pursuit of a stolen vehicle involving all Ashe County law enforcement agencies and ending safely in Wilkes County.
Just before 2am on August 24, 2020, the Ashe County 911 Communications Center received a call from the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office advising all Ashe County law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for a cream-colored Ford Expedition heading Northbound up the mountain on NC Highway 16 toward Ashe County. The subjects in the vehicle had allegedly just stolen the Ford Expedition from the driveway of a Wilkes County residence near where they had, moments earlier, just crashed a different stolen vehicle and fled the scene.
Ashe County law enforcement agencies, including the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, the Jefferson Police Department and the West Jefferson Police Department immediately set up in the area in an attempt to locate and intercept the suspect’s vehicle. In under 10 minutes, Officer Jeff Friesland of the West Jefferson Police Department spotted the vehicle headed toward West Jefferson but was unable to catch up to the vehicle due to the high rate of speed they were traveling. Over the next hour Ashe County agencies and the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office made visual contact with the vehicle, attempted to perform traffic stops on the vehicle and attempted to deploy tire deflation devices in an effort to stop the vehicle.
Just after 3am, with the vehicle headed back into Wilkes County on NC Highway 18, deputies from the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office successfully deployed a tire deflation device, bringing the pursuit to an end. Officers from multiple agencies assisted in taking the two suspects into custody unharmed and without incident. Further investigation produced items reportedly stolen earlier in the night from a vehicle parked at an Ashe County residence and from a burglarized Ashe County commercial business. The suspects were transported to the Wilkes County Detention Center with charges from multiple agencies.
SUSPECTS: James Earl Bennett, 29 yo, of Albany, N.Y. Charges of: Felony Assault- Ashe County Felony Failure to Heed Lights and Sirens – Ashe County Aggressive Driving – Ashe County Felony Flee Alude Arrest – Wilkes County Injury to Personal Property – Wilkes County
Melissa Ann Rushing, 33 yo, of Charlotte, N.C. Charges of: Aiding and Abetting Larceny – Wilkes County
NOTE- An ongoing investigation into the activities of the suspects is likely to produce additional Ashe County charges.