PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the loss of a deputy who was killed in a crash with a suspected drunken driver on Wednesday, according to the sheriff.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri identified the deputy as 30-year-old Michael Magli. He leaves behind a wife, two young children, his parents and several other family members, the sheriff said Wednesday night.
“There’s nothing harder. It’s one of those things that you can’t prepare for it,” an emotional Sheriff Gualtieri said. “It’s one of those things you have to do. To say it’s a tragedy is an understatement.”
The crash happened around 4:30 p.m. at East Lake Road and Forelock Road near Brooker Creek Elementary School.
Sheriff Gualtieri said the suspect, identified as Robert Holzaepfel, was driving drunk at the time of the crash.
According to investigators, Deputy Magli was traveling northbound on East Lake Road and stopped in the median to retrieve and deploy stop sticks when Holzaepfel entered the median, lost control of his truck, and collided with Magli.
Deputy Magli was pinned under his patrol vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Gualtieri, Holzaepfel has 16 prior felonies, was driving with a suspended license and is on probation until 2022. He is in custody and was not injured.
Online jail records showed that he is facing several charges, including aggravated fleeing and eluding police, felony murder and DUI manslaughter.
East Lake Road will remain closed in both directions between Forelock and Keystone Roads until mid-morning Thursday. Pinellas County Schools say they are in the process of letting families know to allow extra time when bringing children to school Thursday morning.
Deputy Magli has been with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office since 2013 and was assigned to the Patrol Operations Bureau.
He is the first deputy killed in the line of duty in the sheriff’s office’s history.
The possible schools impacted by road closures are Brooker Creek Elementary, East Lake Middle and High School.
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This is a developing story, please check back for updates.