Pinellas deputy killed in hit-and-run, suspect taken into custody after seek

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally of his shift Thursday night time, Deputy Michael Hartwick pulled over to direct site visitors.

It used to be about 10:40 p.m. and he used to be operating at a development web site on Interstate 275 close to Roosevelt Street, guiding site visitors clear of the crews. Hartwick blocked the 2 inside of southbound lanes of the interstate along with his automotive, were given out and stood at the shoulder, going through north.

It used to be then that he used to be struck through a front-end loader pushed through one of the crucial development staff, going about 20 mph, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri would later inform journalists. Hartwick died in an instant.

The development employee in the back of the wheel, Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, picked up the telephone and known as every other development employee, crying. He drove to a car park a few quarter of a mile clear of the scene, the place he advised every other development employee he had killed a deputy, in keeping with the Sheriff’s Workplace.

That development employee, 31-year-old Elieser Aureilio Gomez-Zelaya, took Molina-Salles’ development vest and helmet and concealed them within the woods, deputies mentioned. In the meantime, Molina-Salles fled on foot, sparking a nine-hour manhunt.

The loss of life marked the company’s 2d line-of-duty fatality in its 110-year historical past and got here at the heels of every other deputy loss of life up to now 18 months.

Deputy Michael J. Magli, 30, used to be killed within the line of responsibility on Feb. 17, 2021. The 30-year-old deputy, husband and father of 2 used to be killed making an attempt to prevent a drunken motive force fleeing from different deputies.

Robert Allen Holzaepfel, 35, used to be sentenced this month to 35 years in jail after he pleaded to blame to third-degree homicide, DUI manslaughter and a legal price of riding whilst his license used to be suspended or revoked.

“All I will say is, right here we pass once more,” Gualtieri mentioned at a information convention early Friday morning. “That is 18 months after Deputy Magli used to be killed. Now we pass 110 years within the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace with none line-of-duty deaths, and now we’ve got two in 18 months.”

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, used to be hit and killed in a single day Thursday through a development employee riding a entrance loader, in keeping with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. [ The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

The investigation

Gualtieri first of all equipped a distinct title for Molina-Salles, however at a 2d information convention Friday afternoon, he mentioned investigators got false knowledge from staff on the scene. Gomez-Zelaya additionally first of all gave deputies a faux title, Gualtieri mentioned.

Legislation enforcement around the house spent Friday morning on the lookout for Molina-Salles, the usage of 3 helicopters and K9 devices — together with bloodhound canines from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Workplace that used Molina-Salles’ equipment to pick out up his smell and assist take him into custody through about 8:40 a.m. Friday, when government say a bloodhound discovered him in some brush.

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He used to be booked into the Pinellas County Prison on Friday and faces a price of leaving the scene of a crash involving loss of life, a first-degree legal that carries a most jail sentence of 30 years and a compulsory minimal of 4 years.

Investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office work at the scene on the southbound lanes of I-275 near Gandy Boulevard on Friday in St. Petersburg, where Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, was hit and killed overnight Thursday by a construction worker operating a front-end loader at a construction site, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace paintings on the scene at the southbound lanes of I-275 close to Gandy Street on Friday in St. Petersburg, the place Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, used to be hit and killed in a single day Thursday through a development employee running a front-end loader at a development web site, in keeping with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Molina-Salles is from Honduras and entered the US with out felony authorization, Gualtieri mentioned. Molina-Salles advised investigators he has been within the Tampa Bay house since March. His ultimate identified deal with is in Tampa.

Gomez-Zelaya is also from Honduras and has additionally been residing in the US with out felony authorization, Gualtieri mentioned. He’s going through a price of being an adjunct after the truth, a legal.

Gualtieri mentioned different staff on the scene additionally equipped false names.

“They have been hindering the investigation, now not giving us solutions to the questions that we would have liked,” Gualtieri mentioned.

From time to time right through the clicking convention, the Republican sheriff veered into inflammatory rhetoric about immigration. His remarks have been harking back to the ones made through some in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ management. The governor just lately took credit score for flying migrants on two planes from Florida to Martha’s Winery, sparking outrage around the country.

Juan Ariel Molinas-Salles, 32, was arrested on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 on a charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving death after deputies say he fatally struck Pinellas sheriff's Deputy Michael Hartwick with a front end loader at a construction site on Interstate 275 near Roosevelt Boulevard the prior night and then ran away.
Juan Ariel Molinas-Salles, 32, used to be arrested on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 on a price of leaving the scene of a crash involving loss of life after deputies say he fatally struck Pinellas sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick with a entrance finish loader at a development web site on Interstate 275 close to Roosevelt Street the prior night time after which ran away. [ Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office ]

The sheriff mentioned Molina-Salles does now not have a motive force’s license and gave his employer a faux id card from North Carolina. In keeping with Gualtieri, Molina-Salles advised his employer that he knew methods to function the front-end loader from his development enjoy again in Honduras.

Gualtieri mentioned the lads paintings for Archer Western Building. The Tampa-based company is without doubt one of the contractors employed through the Florida Division of Transportation to switch the Howard Frankland Bridge.

A consultant of the corporate didn’t reply to messages Friday. Jessica Ottaviano, a spokesperson for the state transportation division, emailed a commentary to the Instances Friday night providing the dep.’s condolences and its help within the Sheriff’s Workplace investigation.

She went on to mention, “FDOT and its contractors practice strict hiring procedures. Whilst it sounds as if that those hiring procedures have been adopted, together with a federal E-Examine clearance take a look at, and the folks in query handed this federal clearance, the Division is beginning an interior assessment in this undertaking contract. FDOT will even proceed to give a boost to regulation enforcement efforts as investigations proceed.”

Government first of all closed I-275 in each instructions, diverting southbound site visitors onto Ulmerton Highway and northbound site visitors onto Gandy Street. The northbound lanes have been reopened through 10 a.m. and the southbound lanes through about 12:15 p.m.

The scene off SR-688 E at Interstate 275 on Friday morning where a manhunt converged for the construction worker accused of fatally striking Pinellas sheriff's Deputy Michael Hartwick with a front end loader on I-275 Thursday night. The suspect was in custody by 8:40 a.m. Friday.
The scene off SR-688 E at Interstate 275 on Friday morning the place a manhunt converged for the development employee accused of fatally putting Pinellas sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick with a entrance finish loader on I-275 Thursday night time. The suspect used to be in custody through 8:40 a.m. Friday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

‘He did his task’

Hartwick used to be a deputy with the Sheriff’s Workplace for 19 years, Gualtieri mentioned.

“Mike used to be a excellent man, a excellent cop,” Gualtieri mentioned Friday morning. “He did his task.”

Hartwick had two grownup sons who have been notified of Hartwick’s loss of life, as used to be his mom, Gualtieri mentioned.

The Sheriff’s Workplace escorted the deputy’s frame from the scientific examiner’s workplace to the Thomas B. Dobies Funeral House in Tarpon Springs Friday afternoon. Legislation enforcement automobiles stretched alongside East Tarpon Road as participants of the Sheriff’s Workplace got here to pay their respects. Outdoor of the Sheriff’s Workplace, a sheriff’s car embellished with ribbons, plant life and an image of Hartwick venerated his reminiscence.

Tony Karlhofer, of Largo, places flowers near a makeshift memorial for Deputy Michael Hartwick, at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Friday in Largo.
Tony Karlhofer, of Largo, puts plant life close to a makeshift memorial for Deputy Michael Hartwick, on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace headquarters on Friday in Largo. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch additionally launched a commentary providing his condolences to the Sheriff’s Workplace and Hartwick’s family members.

“I’m deeply saddened to be informed of the passing of PCSO Deputy Michael Hartwick,” Welch mentioned within the commentary.

Outdoor of labor, Hartwick cherished to experience his bike and used to be the street captain for the Indian Motorbike Riders Crew, Skyway Bankruptcy, 1982 in St. Petersburg.

He used to be nominated as highway captain a few years in the past at a gathering he didn’t attend, however he nonetheless agreed to take the lead, mentioned 61-year-old Ron Herman, a member of the membership.

Hartwick used to be a very good planner and favored introducing the crowd to new eating places on their rides.

“He used to all the time funny story and say we have been a using team with an consuming downside as a result of he knew the puts to head and devour,” Herman mentioned.

The deputy cherished his task and labored lengthy hours, Herman mentioned. And he all the time knew methods to make his pals giggle, even if they have been in a foul temper.

Hartwick favored to experience in Pasco and Hernando counties and loved the camaraderie of the crowd, mentioned Jim Masterson, who met Hartwick during the membership about two years in the past. In April, the deputy lead the crowd on a travel to Georgia, making plans a course that used to be greater than 1,000 miles spherical travel, he mentioned.

“He used to be very inviting and inclusive, very open,” mentioned Masterson, 57, including that Hartwick had a really perfect humorousness.

“He used to be very desirous about how everybody used to be doing and what used to be going down in our lives, and he used to be excellent about sharing what used to be occurring along with his,” Masterson mentioned. “And he used to be only a excellent good friend.”

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