PINELLAS COUNTY, FL - On Friday, deputies arrested Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, after he reportedly ran over 51-year-old Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff Michael Hartwick while illegally operating heavy equipment at a construction site in St. Petersburg.
The Honduran national who was deported in October 2021, re-entered the country in March 2022, according to court documents.
Molina-Salles originally gave deputies a false name (Victor Vazquez-Real).
A judge ordered Molina-Salles to be held and told him he's required to surrender his passport after deputies say he ran over deputy Michael Hartwick with a front-end loader and continued driving a quarter of a mile to a parking area.
Deputies say Molina Salles gave another construction worker, Elieser Aureilio Gomez-Zelaya, his hat and vest and told him to hide them.
Gomez-Zelaya is also an illegal alien from Honduras, and was also working under an alias.
In a somber news conference, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri stated:
He shouldn’t have been here. He shouldn’t have been driving that thing…He shouldn’t be working.
Molina-Salles was charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death and is currently being held at the Pinellas County Jail on an ICE detainer. View this suspect's booking info...
Gomez-Zelaya was charged with accessory after the fact and providing a false identity to law enforcement and is also being held at the Pinellas County Jail on an ICE detainer.
Deputy Hartwick, who died at the scene, had been with the sheriff’s office for 19 years. He left behind two sons.
If you wish to leave a condolence for Deputy Hartwick, you may do so here.
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