PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – A Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy was struck and killed by a front-end loader late Thursday in a hit-and-run crash along I-275 in St. Petersburg, officials said.
Deputy Michael Hartwick, who was wearing a safety vest, was working an overnight security shift at a construction site when he was struck by the loader next to the interstate near the Howard Frankland Bridge, according to sheriff’s officials. Sheriff’s officials said Hartwick was standing on the road’s shoulder when he was struck by the front-end loader at 20 mph.
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The sheriff’s office tweeted about the death of Hartwick, a 19-year veteran of the agency.
“It is with extraordinary sadness that we announce that Deputy Michael Hartwick was killed in the line of duty late Thursday evening as a result of a hit-and-run crash on I-275 in St. Petersburg,” the tweet said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said a search was underway for Victor Vazquez-Real, 35, the construction worker who was driving the loader and ran away after the crash. The sheriff’s office said he was taken into custody around 8:40 a.m. on Friday.
According to Bay News 9, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Vazquez-Real drove to a parking area after hitting Hartwick, parked the front-end loader and then took off his helmet and vest. Gualtieri added that Vazquez handed his gear to another worker and said he had “killed a deputy” and left the scene.
Gualtieri said the worker took Vazquez-Real’s gear and hid it in a wooded area.
“Mike was a good guy, a good cop,” Gualtieri said. “He did his job.”
The sheriff said Vazquez-Real is facing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving death while the other worker is facing a charge of accessory after the fact.
No other details have been released.
Check back for updates.
It is with extraordinary sadness that we announce that Deputy Michael Hartwick was killed in the line of duty late Thursday evening as a result of a hit and run crash on I-275 in St. Petersburg. The suspect is still at large. pic.twitter.com/o5TcR5t7bo— Pinellas SO (@SheriffPinellas) September 23, 2022
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