Mark Raymond Phelps, charged with the attempted murder of two North County sheriff's deputies, was being held without bail Wednesday in the psychiatric ward of the downtown jail amid allegations that he was beaten and injured by jail deputies in Vista.
The accusation was aired Wednesday by Phelps' attorney, David McKenzie, who said his client needed stitches to close a forehead wound that occurred Tuesday afternoon. McKenzie said Phelps told him the injury was caused when "sheriffs came into his isolation cell, put him in chains, roughed him up, banged him against a toilet and put him in a rubber room."
McKenzie said he believed his client's story, in part because "some of the sheriffs appear to be too cute" when discussing the incident.
The acting commander of the Vista jail, Lt. Kathy Fulmer, vehemently denied the charge, saying that, while Phelps was in an isolation cell--at his own request--Tuesday, he began yelling in an attempt to incite other prisoners, then "banged his head on the metal rim" of a toilet in his cell. The toilet essentially is no more than a hole in the cell floor.
Phelps was immediately restrained by deputies, placed in chains and moved to the jail's rubber room, Fulmer said. He was treated and transferred to the county mental health facility in downtown San Diego for overnight observation.
Tried to Cover Camera
Earlier in the day, she said, Phelps tried to cover up a camera that monitors prisoners' activities in isolation cells, and he later was found to have put his T-shirt around his neck.
Phelps was being monitored because his behavior had prompted a "suicide watch" to be ordered, Fulmer said.
On Wednesday, Vista Municipal Judge Tony Maino ordered Phelps, 28, of Vista, held without bail, saying Phelps could be a danger to the community if released. He ordered a bail review hearing for Monday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. William Collins characterized Phelps as a "public menace."
Phelps faces two charges of attempted murder. Collins said he wants to prosecute Phelps for premeditated attempted murder which, if he was convicted, could result in a life prison term.
In court on Wednesday, Phelps squinted and appeared fidgety. At one point in the brief proceeding, he stood on his toes, seemed anguished and looked toward his wife in the courtroom, mouthing the words: "I love you."
Also on Wednesday, a federal grand jury in San Diego formally indicted Phelps and Raymond Turnipseed on charges of conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine. The federal charge followed a three-month narcotics investigation that culminated last Friday when Phelps allegedly showed an undercover federal agent a methamphetamine lab in Carlsbad that he said was used to manufacture the drug.
It was later that same day that Phelps allegedly fired an automatic weapon at a sheriff's deputy who was trying to pull him over for an outstanding felony warrant. Phelps shot the deputy in the shoulder and fled, only to be discovered by another deputy on Sunday afternoon. In that incident, Phelps allegedly again unleashed automatic weapons fire at the pursuing officer before finally giving himself up peacefully in a San Marcos furniture store.
McKenzie said his client is "very afraid of law enforcement," for reasons he has not yet learned.
Fulmer said she is concerned that Vista deputies would be targeted for abuse charges, but acknowledged that "obviously, tensions run high and emotions run high when officers in the field could have been killed and now he (Phelps) is here on a daily basis."
She said she gave her jail deputies a "pep talk," admonishing them to play it especially safe in handling Phelps, given the nature of the charges against him.