TAMPA, Florida – Two road construction workers are facing charges after one allegedly ran into a Pinellas County deputy with a forklift, killing him, and fled the scene, launching a manhunt to find the persons responsible.
The collision occurred just after 11 p.m. in the area of Interstate 275 and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Deputy Michael Hartwick, 51, was in a construction zone, working a traffic detail when he was struck by a front-end loader with a forklift.
The operator of the front-end loader, identified as Victor Vasquez, allegedly continued driving for about a quarter of a mile before he pulled into a parking area, got out of the vehicle and told another construction worker about what happened. He gave the worker his helmet and vest and ran away on foot, Gualtieri said.
“We believe he is still on foot somewhere in the area,” Gualtieri said at the time.
Gualtieri said the other worker hid Vasquez’ uniform. That worker is in custody at this time and will be charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Gualtieri said about 100 officers and K9 teams spent hours searching the area for Vasquez.
On Friday morning, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced that they had taken Vasquez into custody.
“The suspect who killed Deputy Michael Hartwick has been taken into custody. We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the media and the public for their support. Further updates will be provided as they become available,” they wrote.
He faces a charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death, a second-degree felony.