John Paul Sr., former race car driver and accused drug smuggler, and another inmate squirted a mixture of hot sauce and liquid floor cleanser in a guard's face Tuesday in an unsuccessful jail break.
The guard, who was wearing glasses, recovered quickly and fired a shot that prompted the two inmates to surrender before they could get over a 12-foot fence at Baker County Jail.
Sheriff's investigator Archie T. Roberson said that Paul and Gary Wayne Fowler, each squirted shampoo bottles filled with pine cleanser, black pepper, hot sauce and hot water at the lone guard in the jail's recreation yard.
A pickup truck that had been stolen in Gainesville last week was in the parking lot outside the jail yard, Roberson said. The keys were inside.
"I'm sure the truck was left for them," he said.
After they squirted the guard, Fowler made it nearly to the top of the chain-link fence, and Paul was starting to climb when the guard recovered and fired, Roberson said.
"They dropped off the fence pretty quick and they went to the ground," Roberson said.
Fowler and Paul were put in "lockdown," Roberson said. "They're not out playing in the yard."
The escape attempt could jeopardize a plea-bargaining agreement that was being negotiated for Paul, authorities said.
"If it indeed is a legitimate escape attempt, it will change or eliminate any offer the government might make," said Tom Morris, an assistant U.S. attorney in Jacksonville.
Janice Singer, an Atlanta attorney who has been helping represent Paul, said that her firm had been unable to learn anything officially about the alleged escape attempt, and expressed hope that authorities would turn out to be mistaken about Paul's reported involvement.
Paul, 48, convicted in state court of trying to kill a witness in a drug case, was being held at the Baker County Jail pending disposition of a variety of federal charges.
Singer had said in federal court a week ago that her client would plead guilty to tax evasion, marijuana smuggling and false passport charges stemming from indictments in Jacksonville, Miami and Atlanta.
The federal charges in Jacksonville allege that Paul and his son, John Paul Jr., also a race car driver, conspired with several others to smuggle 200,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States between 1975 and 1983.
In January, Paul Sr. was sentenced in St. Augustine to 20 years in prison on a state charge of attempted murder. He had pleaded guilty last June in a plea-bargain agreement to a charge that he attempted to murder federal drug witness Steve Carson in April 1983.
As part of that agreement, Paul Sr.'s state term will run concurrently with any federal prison time he receives, and the sentence will be served in federal custody.
John Paul Jr. was sentenced last May to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to racketeering in a plea-bargain agreement.
Paul and his son scored five consecutive racing victories as a team in 1981 and 1982, the longest consecutive streak in the history of the Camel GT road racing series. They operated JPL Racing Inc. in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Paul also won the World Endurance drivers' championship in 1978 and 1980, and Paul Jr. won the Michigan 500 in 1983.