The San Diego Union-Tribune
Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man suspected of impersonating law enforcement early Monday after he pulled over a driver in Fallbrook, then fled and rolled his car when a real deputy arrived at the phony traffic stop, authorities said.
Michael Anthony Carmichael, 21, was dressed in clothing adorned with San Diego County Sheriff’s Department patches when he crashed, sheriff’s Detective Lester Garman said in a news release. His silver car had emergency strobe lights in the front and back
The Oceanside resident also had a ballistic vest with a “sheriff” patch on it and a utility belt with several weapons, including a baton and brass knuckles, as well as a replica gun that appeared real, Garman said. Deputies searching his home found an additional replica gun and a fake badge that read “special police.”
Carmichael’s alleged ruse began to unravel around 2 a.m. when a real deputy from the sheriff’s Fallbrook substation drove up on what appeared to be a traffic stop on South Mission Road near Fallbrook High School, Garman said.
The deputy spotted the unmarked car with the strobe lights and the impersonator, wearing a black shirt with the sheriff’s patches and the utility belt with what appeared to be a holstered gun, and believed he was a plainclothes deputy, Garman said. He turned around to assist with the predawn traffic stop.
But as the deputy drove up, the impersonator ran to his car and sped away, Garman said. The deputy tried to pull over the driver, but the driver refused to stop and at one point turned off the car’s lights.
With the impersonator’s car blacked out, it was “too dangerous for the deputy to follow the suspect,” though he continued searching the area, Garman said. While doing so, the deputy came upon a rollover crash on South Mission Road near Mission Creek Road.
Deputies pulled Carmichael from the car and extinguished a small vegetation fire sparked by the crash, Garman said. Paramedics took Carmichael to a hospital.
A woman who was an acquaintance had also been in the car and paramedics checked her at the scene after she complained of minor aches and pains, Garman said. Detectives interviewed her and determined she was not part of Carmichael’s alleged deceit.
After being treated at the hospital, deputies arrested Carmichael and booked him into the Vista Detention Facility on suspicion of two misdemeanor counts of impersonating a peace officer, a felony count of evading, a felony false imprisonment count related to the bogus traffic stop and several felony weapons charges.
Jail records showed he remained in custody Monday night in lieu of $170,000 bail.
Items found during the search of Carmichael’s home “could be used to impersonate a deputy, police officer or security guard,” according to Garman, who added that all of the guns found — at least one at the crash site and one at the home — were not real firearms.
The woman driving the car the impersonator pulled over was not injured, Garman said.
According to the detective, drivers concerned about being pulled over by an unmarked vehicle should turn on their emergency flashing lights to acknowledge the deputy, then call 911 to verify that the Sheriff’s Department has an unmarked unit in the area.
“You also have the right to ask a deputy for identification such as a photo I.D., badge and business card,” Garman said. “Pull over into (a) well-lit and busy area for other people to witness the interaction or traffic stop.”
8:52 p.m. June 13, 2022: This story was updated with the suspect’s name and details of the incident.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.