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Florida sheriff’s deputy killed by front-end loader while guarding construction site

A former Florida sheriff’s deputy was killed by a front loader while providing security at a construction site.

Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, died at the scene after being hit by a large front loader driving down I-275 Thursday night, Fox 13 reported.

The driver, Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, took off his construction vest and fled, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference on Friday. The suspect allegedly called a fellow construction worker – who was also arrested for allegedly helping get rid of Mr Molina-Salle’s belongings – crying and saying he had killed an MP.

Mr. Molina-Salles, a Honduran immigrant who entered the country illegally in March, was charged with an accident resulting in death, a crime punishable by at least four years in state prison. The other construction worker was charged with complicity after the fact.

He is the second deputy the ministry has lost in office in its history.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, died at the scene after being hit by a heavy front loader

(PCSO)

“We have a dead deputy. We have a guy who shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t have been driving this thing,” Sheriff Gualtieri said at the press conference. “He shouldn’t have run away. He shouldn’t have done any of this and the companies are doing this.

“He dedicated 19 years of service to protect the people of Pinellas County. He shouldn’t have died that way,” the sheriff said of the deputy.

Law enforcement reviewed Deputy Hartwick’s dash camera video, which shows him exiting his vehicle as a front-end loader and construction truck escorting him passed. He is then hit a few moments later.

Suspect Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32

(PCSO)

K9 units used in the investigation found Mr. Molina-Salles’ vest in the woods and helped authorities find it.

Sheriff Gualtieri said Mr Molina-Salles had previously entered the country illegally in 2021 before being deported. He did not have a driver’s license and allegedly handed over a fake identity card and gave authorities a false name when he was captured.


The Independent Gt

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