Florida deputy murdered by illegal immigrant in hit-and-run before escape scene, sheriff says IG News

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Sources told Fox News that a man arrested in connection with the death of a Florida sheriff’s deputy was living illegally in the United States.

Juan Ariel Molina-Sales, 32, is accused of leaving the scene of the accident. The allegation stems from Thursday’s hit-and-run death of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick, a 19-year veteran who left behind two adult sons.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Friday that Hartwick was working on traffic details in a construction area at night when Molina-Sales was driving a front loader that struck Hartwick. He said the driver of the vehicle was going “I feel very fast.”

“He ran as he said because he was scared after killing the deputy, but he clearly knew he killed the deputy,” he said.

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Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick died Thursday after being struck by a construction vehicle driven by a man living illegally in the United States, officials said.
(Pinelas County Sheriff’s Office)

After striking Hartwick, Molina-Sales was reportedly leaving and told another construction worker that he had just killed a deputy. He then took off his construction hat and traffic vest and reportedly handed it over to the laborer asking him to hide it.

Gualtieri said the worker, identified as Elisvar Gomez-Zelaya, dumped the goods in the woods.

Officials said Gomez-Zelaya was in the US illegally from Honduras and was arrested and charged with being an aide.

When confronted by investigators, Molina-Sales gave him a fake name and said he was from Puerto Rico, officials said. He illegally entered the US on October 25, 2021, through Eagle Pass, Texas, Gualtieri said.

He said he was turned around by the Border Patrol and deported back to Mexico.

“There is no record of him ever coming back to the United States legally, and he was here illegally,” Gualtieri told reporters.

Molina-Sales reportedly admitted to authorities that he had illegally returned to the US via Texas and has been in the Tampa area since March. During the investigation, most construction workers gave false names and lied to officials at the scene, Gualtieri said.

Juan Molina-Sales, an illegal immigrant living in the United States, fatally hit Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Hartwick with a construction vehicle and fled the scene, officials said.

Juan Molina-Sales, an illegal immigrant living in the United States, fatally hit Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick with a construction vehicle and fled the scene, officials said.
(Pinelas County Sheriff’s Office)

“They were obstructing the investigation, not answering the questions we needed,” he said.

He said the workers were employed by a company doing contract work for the state transport department. Molina-Sales told the construction company that he had built in Honduras before being hired. Officials said he gave a fake ID card to the company.

“He didn’t have a driver’s license. He doesn’t have anything. He shouldn’t have been here to begin with, and he shouldn’t have been driving,” Gualtieri said. “He shouldn’t have worked … He has no ability to drive a front loader.”

The state Department of Transportation told Fox News that it follows strict hiring procedures with its contractors as well.

“While it appears that these recruitment procedures were followed, including a federal e-verification clearance check, and individuals who have passed this federal approval, the Department is initiating an internal review on this project contract. The FDOT will also continue to support law enforcement. The investigation is ongoing,” the agency said.

Florida Gov. Office Ron DeSantis told Fox News that it is investigating the matter and trying to determine whether illegal immigrants used false information to obtain employment with contractors working with the state. have used.

“As we gather details and examine possible courses of action, we are reminded once again that illegal immigration into the United States is a serious and ongoing problem that has a multifaceted impact on Florida,” the statement said. effect.” “If this person’s illegal status played a role in his decision to cover up this incident, it underscores one of the disadvantages our state is facing due to the federal government’s open border policies. The state of Florida is a sanctuary state.” And not illegal immigrants. Not authorized to work here. For reasons like these, we will continue our legitimate efforts to deter illegal immigrants and relocate them.”

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Fox News has contacted US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the State Department of Transportation and the company that hired Molina-Sales.

DeSantis has stepped up efforts to curb illegal immigration, most recently flying Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a move that angered Democrats.

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