PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — One year ago, Pinellas County Deputy Michael Hartwick died when he was struck by a forklift, operated by an undocumented construction worker.
On Sept. 22, 2022, around 11 p.m., 51-year-old Deputy Hartwick was killed while on detail on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg to protect the construction workers.
Hartwick had parked his patrol car, blocking two southbound lanes, and was standing in the shoulder when he was hit.
The suspect, 32-year-old Juan Ariel Molina Salles of Honduras, was arrested following a nine-hour manhunt. He was found by Pasco deputies in a brush area.
Molina-Salles was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death.
His accomplice, Elieser Aurelio Gomez-Zelaya helped hide Molina-Salles’ items following the incident.
“Deputy Michael Hartwick died protecting others, trying to keep others from being hurt or killed, which is what cops do even when it means great personal danger to themselves,” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Pinellas deputies honor Deputy Hartwick’s bravery, sacrifice, and his lasting impact.