PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Dozens of law enforcement officers helped honor a fallen Pinellas County Deputy Thursday as they escorted his body from the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office to a funeral home in Holiday.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says on Wednesday 30-year-old Deputy Michael Magli was killed after a drunk driver smashed into his squad car at Eastlake Road and Forelock Road. The sheriff's office said this was the first deputy to ever be killed in the line of duty with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in its 109 year history.
The sheriff says Deputy Magli, a veteran of eight years, was attempting to help stop a drunk driver that was running from deputies.
Deputies say the drunk driver was seen earlier in the day driving recklessly, jumping the median and driving all over the road.
Deputy Magli had parked and attempted to deploy stop sticks in the road when the suspect's vehicle spun out, rolled and slammed into the deputy's cruiser, the sheriff said. Deputies say he died at the scene.
"To say it's a tragedy is an understatement. There are no words that can make sense of it, nothing you can express," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Deputy Michael Magli, killed today in the line of duty. @FLCaseyDeSantis and I are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers, as well as the entire @SheriffPinellas family. His service and sacrifice will not be forgotten. https://t.co/0n4AGaxaJy— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 18, 2021
Our hearts are broken for @SheriffPinellas as they mourn the loss of Deputy Michael Magli, killed in the line of duty on Wednesday. Our #teamHCSO family, unfortunately, knows all too well what this agency is going through. The PCSO family is in our thoughts and prayers tonight. https://t.co/IEVLhsCKtw— HCSO (@HCSOSheriff) February 18, 2021
The man who hit him is identified as Robert Holzapfel, 33. Deputies say he had a suspended driver's license and 16 previous felony charges. Deputies say they determined the blood alcohol level of the suspect to be .230. He appeared in court over a video conference from jail Thursday afternoon.
Holzaepfel now faces the following charges:
- First Degree Felony Murder
- DUI Manslaughter
- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (Involving Death)
- Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Property Damage
- Manatee County Violation of Probation (False Info to a Pawn Broker)
- Manatee County Violation of Probation (Trafficking in Stolen Property)
- Aggravated Fleeing and Eluding.
"It was a situation where the person needed to be stopped. Otherwise, he was going to hurt someone else," said Sheriff Gualtieri. "Deputy Magli was trying to protect people. He was trying to keep others from being hurt by this guy who is driving like a maniac, drunk, reckless, going to hurt somebody so he stepped up like cops do."
On Thursday, a memorial set up outside the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office continued to grow as community members left flowers and other mementos.
The Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association announced they are donating $50,000 to Deputy Magli's family. He leaves behind a wife and two very young daughters.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is also working to set up a community fund over the next few days.
Jonathan Vazquez of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association says Deputy Magli will be remembered as a hero.
“His intention was to stop a reckless drunk driver from potentially killing others, their families, loved ones. He put his life on the line to stop this bad guy from heinously hurting anybody else and in the process of that his life was taken,” he said with emotion.
Detectives are asking for the public's help with locating anyone with damage to their vehicle as a result of the crashes at East Lake Road north of Forelock Road or at Keystone Road and Woodfield Boulevard on Wednesday, February 17. These crashes would have occurred between 4:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
Additionally, investigators are seeking any and all video footage that may have been captured via dashcam or any other methods.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Syers at (727) 582-6215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.