Illegal immigrants driving front-end loaders strike, kill Florida deputy

An illegal immigrant driving a front-end loader allegedly assaulted and killed a veteran Florida lawmaker before fleeing the scene Thursday night.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Hartwick was working on traffic details at a construction site along highway I-275 at about 10:40 p.m. when a fatal collision occurred.Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

“This man we have in custody was here illegally and, as he said, got scared after he killed his lieutenant so he ran away,” Gualtieri said.

Dashcam footage from Hartwick’s patrol car showed the sheriff getting out of the car about a minute after arriving at the scene and walking to the shoulder next to where the lane was blocked, according to the sheriff. There is

Moments later, a construction vehicle passes in front of the camera and is seen crashing into Hartwick while traveling at about 20 mph.

Hartwick, a 19-year veteran of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy Mike Hartwick was a 19-year veteran of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

A front-end loader used to move the concrete barrier at the site was operated by a construction worker at the site, who was later identified as 32-year-old Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, police said.

Molina-Salles continued to drive the loader after allegedly hitting her deputy. He reached a quarter mile from the scene and finally stopped.

While driving, he called a colleague on the phone “crying” and “makes no sense”, saying he “just killed his agent”. I told them to hide them before fleeing on foot.

A colleague, identified as 31-year-old Elieser Aureilio Gomez-Zelaya, is said to have hidden the vest and helmet in the nearby woods.

After a nine-hour search involving three K-9 helicopter units and hundreds of law enforcement officers, Molina Salles was found hiding in bushes by agents of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department. rice field.

PCSO Mike Hartwick
Hartwick was killed by a construction vehicle while inspecting traffic details on a Florida highway.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Police said the K9s recovered a hidden vest and helmet and a bloodhound picked up Molina-Salles’ scent and located him.

During the run, police said he contacted his roommate, who is also an illegal immigrant, to pick him up in a car. But my roommate looked back after seeing a massive law enforcement response in the area.

Molina-Salles was arrested and charged with leaving the fatal crash site. Gomez-Zelaya was also charged with aiding the crime. Both were transferred to Pinellas County Jail.

Molina-Salles initially provided police with the pseudonym Victor Vasquez-Real and said he was 35 years old. Investigators later learned that “it was ridiculous,” Gualtieri said.

Molina Salles entered the country illegally on Eagle Pass, Texas in October 2021, according to the sheriff’s office. immigration hotspot Crossed the southern border but was turned back by CBP and sent back to Mexico.

There were no further records of him entering the country when he was arrested on Friday. He told police he had been in the Tampa Bay area since March of this year.

Many of the construction workers at the site were also determined to be illegal immigrants, Gualtieri said. He said it became

Large police presence near the scene
Molina-Salles was tracked down by bloodhounds after a nine-hour search by law enforcement.

“This company employs a lot of illegal workers and they all lied and gave us fake names, fake IDs, many fake IDs from North Carolina, and this investigation really It’s frustrating,” said the sheriff.

Gualtieri said Molina Salles provided the construction company with false identification and told him that he had previously worked in Honduras.

“He didn’t have a driver’s license. He has nothing. He shouldn’t have been here in the first place, he shouldn’t have been driving. He is not qualified to drive a front loader,” he explained.

The workers were hired by Archer Western, a Tampa-based contractor working for the Florida Department of Transportation.

Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told Fox13 In a statement, it said it was investigating the matter to determine whether more illegal immigrants used fraudulent information to obtain jobs in the state.

vowed to continue move illegally Immigrants from the Sunshine State.

front end loader
A front-end loader remained on the scene while forensic scientists investigated the lieutenant’s death.

“If this individual’s illegitimate status influenced his decision to cover up this case, it is because of the harm our state faces because of the federal open border policy. We emphasize one thing: Florida is not a sanctuary state and illegal immigrants are not allowed to work here. We will continue our legitimate efforts.”

On Friday afternoon, the PCSO provided Deputy Hartwick with a police escort from the coroner’s office to a funeral home in Tarpon Springs. Hartwick has two children with his mother.

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