A Lodi schoolteacher was arrested after police allegedly found heroin in his car while he was on his lunch break from Beckman Elementary School.
Michael Scott Phillips, 37, was arrested Friday after he allegedly told Lodi police that a temporary janitor told him he could buy heroin on East Vine Street. He told officers that he had started using heroin three years ago to combat pain from intestinal surgery, but that he had been clean for a year.
Police, however, allegedly found heroin inside a syringe in Phillips' vehicle, and they arrested him on suspicion of two felonies, as well as a misdemeanor. The Sacramento resident has since posted bail from the Lodi jail.
Phillips caught a police officer's attention around 12:50 p.m. Friday, when he was parked in the 500 block of East Vine Street, talking to a man on a bicycle.
Officer Richard Dunfee drove by, reached the stoplight at Cherokee Lane and watched the two in his rear-view mirror. The bicyclist soon headed the opposite direction, while Phillips pulled up behind Dunfee and signaled to turn south on Cherokee Lane, according to the officer's report.
Dunfee pulled Phillips over for having a broken windshield, asked if he could search the car and Phillips declined, saying his lunch break from school was almost over. When Dunfee asked what Phillips was doing parked on Vine Street, Phillips allegedly said he was asking for directions to Kmart to buy his daughter a gift certificate.
Dunfee pointed out that Kmart was in the opposite direction from where Phillips had turned.
Another officer arrived and Dunfee again asked Phillips if he could search the car; this time he agreed.
Police allegedly found a syringe in Phillips' pocket, one in the center console and a third behind the passenger seat. Though Phillips said he was a diabetic and takes insulin before going to work, the third syringe had a substance in it that later tested positive for heroin, police said.
In the trunk, police said they found a bag full of used syringes. Phillips, who has had a California teaching credential since 2005 according to state records, allegedly told police he had started using the illegal drugs three years ago. He said he hadn't cleaned out his car in a very long time.
The school's principal referred all questions to Lodi Unified School District's assistant superintendent of personnel, Mike McKilligan. He did not return multiple calls Monday.
LUSD Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said Monday that she cannot comment on personnel matters and also referred calls to McKilligan.
The Scarborough Drive school's Web site has not been updated since the 2005-06 school year, when it listed Phillips as a third-grade teacher.
Sacramento County court records show that in April 2002 Phillips was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, driving under the influence and reckless driving. The following month he pleaded no contest to reckless driving and prosecutors dismissed the other charges.
Phillips was placed on three years of probation, which ended in May 2005.
Three months later, he received his teaching credential, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.