A 21-year-old man who was arrested early on Monday, accused of posing as a sheriff's deputy conducting a traffic stop, is now suspected of pulling over nearly a dozen drivers in northern San Diego County over the past 10 months, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Michael Anthony Carmichael of Oceanside was arrested after a patrol deputy driving through Fallbrook spotted him seemingly conducting in a traffic stop at the intersection of South Mission and Winter Haven roads shortly before 2 a.m. Monday, according to sheriff's officials. At the time, he was allegedly driving a car outfitted with law enforcement- style flashing lights.
Believing that Carmichael — who was wearing tactical pants, a black polo shirt with San Diego County Sheriff's Department patches on the sleeves and a vest with patches reading "Sheriff" on the front and back — was a plainclothes deputy, the patrolman turned his cruiser around and drove back to find out what was going on, sheriff's Detective Lester Garman said.
As the lawman approached, Carmichael allegedly ran over to his silver 2009 Toyota Camry, jumped in and drove off.
The deputy gave chase and tried to pull Carmichael over, but the suspect allegedly refused to yield, fleeing and eventually turning off all his car lights, prompting the patrolman to back off the pursuit for safety reasons.
A short time later, while searching the area, the deputy found that the Camry had crashed down an embankment. Sheriff's personnel pulled the suspect out of the car and extinguished a small brush fire sparked by the wreck.
A woman who had been riding in Carmichael's car at the time of the crash was detained and evaluated at the scene by paramedics for complaints of pain, then released.
"Detectives spoke to her and determined she had no involvement in Carmichael's impersonation," Garman said.
Carmichael was evaluated at a hospital before being booked into county jail in Vista on suspicion of impersonating a peace officer, felony evasion of police, possessing brass knuckles and a lead-weighted baton, and false imprisonment.
Investigators said they believe the suspect previously had carried out 10 other fake traffic stops in Bonsall, Fallbrook and Oceanside, starting last August.
A search of Carmichael's home allegedly turned up additional paraphernalia, including replica guns, that could be used to impersonate a deputy, police officer or security guard, according to sheriff's officials.
Anyone who has more information about the case or may have been a victim is urged to call the sheriff's department non-emergency line at (858) 565-5200. Tips can also be called in anonymously to Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.