Worker on front end loader hits, kills Florida deputy

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — A Florida sheriff’s deputy who worked a night shift to provide security in a construction zone was hit and killed by an employee operating a front-end loader, officials said.

Pinellas County Deputy Sheriff Michael Hartwick had started his shift shortly before the incident happened late Thursday night on Interstate 275, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference Friday morning.

Victor Vazquez-Real, 35, fled the scene but was arrested early Friday, Gualtieri said.

The sheriff said Hartwick had blocked the two southbound lanes of the highway and was standing on the verge when he was hit by the front loader traveling at about 20 mph. Hartwick was killed instantly, Gualtieri said:

The construction worker continued for about a mile before stopping in a parking lot, the sheriff said. He then told another construction worker that he had killed a deputy sheriff. That worker took Vasquez-Real’s belongings and hid them in a wooded area, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said Vazquez-Real will be charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The other construction worker is later accused of accessories. It was not immediately known whether Vazquez-Real has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

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Hartwick had been with the agency for 19 years.

“Mike was a good guy, a good cop,” Gualtieri said. “He did his job.”

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