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Man arrested for impersonating Sheriff's deputy appears in court

Michael Carmichael who is charged with 5 felonies, is accused of pulling over drivers for traffic infractions while dressed as a deputy.

FALLBROOK, Calif. — A 21-year-old man suspected of posing as a sheriff's deputy and pulling over drivers in northern San Diego County over the last 10 months, while driving a car outfitted with law enforcement-style flashing lights, pleaded not guilty to five felony counts Wednesday in Vista Court.

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. on June 13, according to sheriff's officials.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Gochnour told the judge Carmichael never tried to assault any of the drivers he pulled over. Instead, Carmichael allegedly stopped the drivers because he thought he was a cop and the drivers were breaking traffic laws, the prosecutor said.

"He pulls people over, scolds them for their perceived bad driving and then lets them go with a warning," Gochnour said.

Carmichael is charged with two felony counts of impersonating an officer, evading an officer with reckless driving, possession of metal knuckles, and possession of a leaded baton.

On June 13, 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, a 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, inside of which windshield-mounted red and blue lights were flashing, jumped in and drove off.

The deputy then 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 18-year-old 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 lives on Wilshire Road in Oceanside with his mother and aunt.  His mother told CBS 8 her son is a former U.S. Marine, who received a medical discharge for mental illness.

"He thinks he's a cop.  He wants to do what a cop does," said the mother, who asked not to be identified.

Carmichael currently is on probation for a similar misdemeanor offense of impersonating an officer and pulling over a driver in August 2021.

Judge Laura Duffy set his bail at $170,000 and ordered, if Carmichael does make bail, he will be released to a mental treatment facility pending the outcome of his criminal case.

"The court finds that you are a danger to the community because of the type of behavior that you are engaging in. You are not a law enforcement officer. You are alleged to have pulled people over. You pled guilty to pulling people over in 2021, pretending to be a law enforcement officer," Judge Duffy said in court.

Carmichael's mother said her son needs mental health treatment.

"I want to apologize to the families and whoever he pulled over. I am really sorry and I am really hurt that this happened," the mother said.

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.

Carmichael currently is charged with five felony counts associated with alleged incidents on June 13, 2022 and May 23, 2022, according to the complaint.

Investigators believe he may have pulled over as many as 9 or 10 drivers since August 2021.

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