Tarpon Springs, FL – Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Deputy Michael Magli died in the line of duty on Wednesday afternoon, after an alleged drunk driver crashed into him as the driver was fleeing from deputies.
The series of events leading up to the fatal collision began at approximately 4:25 p.m., when the East Lake Fire Rescue was dispatched to a report of a person passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle parked at a red light on Forelock Road, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Emergency personnel ended up breaking out a window of the truck in their effort to help the driver, who was later identified as 33-year-old Robert Allen Holzaepfel.
The shattering glass roused Holzaepfel, who stomped on the gas and fled the scene Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“He took off at a high rate of speed southbound on East Lake Road,” said Sheriff Gualtieri, who described Holzaepfel’s driving as “extremely reckless and very dangerous.”
“He needed to be stopped or he was going to hurt someone else,” the sheriff said. “The safest way to do it was to deflate the tires and not endanger anyone else.”
Deputy Magli, 30, positioned his patrol vehicle in the median of East Lake Road near Forelock Road and got out of the car in order to deploy the tire-deflating devices, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
That’s when the suspect, a 16-time felon, slammed into him and spun out in the median, Sheriff Gualtieri said.
Deputy Magli died after being pinned beneath the patrol car, WFLA reported.
The suspect was uninjured in the crash.
Deputies arrested Holzaepfel on charges of aggravated fleeing and eluding law enforcement, first-degree felony murder, driving without a valid license resulting in death, and DUI manslaughter, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The career criminal was on probation at the time of the deadly crash, and has been convicted of 16 felonies in the past.
Deputy Magli was hired by the PCSO as a part-time criminal justice specialist in 2013, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He graduated from the law enforcement academy the following year, and was assigned as a patrol deputy.
“Deputy Magli was trying to protect people,” Sheriff Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times. “He stepped up like cops do and tried to keep people from being hurt and lost his life in the process.”
He leaves behind his wife and two young children, the department said in a Facebook post.
“To say it’s a tragedy is an understatement,” Sheriff Gualtieri said, according to WFLA. “There’s no words that can make any sense of it. There’s nothing that you can express. Their life is forever changed. It will never be the same.”
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
Deputy Michael J. Magli will be escorted to the Dobies Funeral home at 4910 Bartelt Rd in Holiday today at 3pm. Please join us on the East side of US 19, North of Republic Dr. Visit https://t.co/eZLHvyk40e for full details. pic.twitter.com/i87v00FGVe
— Pinellas SO (@SheriffPinellas) February 18, 2021
Our hearts are with the family of Deputy Michael Magli and the men and women of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office tonight. Dep. Magli was killed while protecting our community. We are forever grateful to him and will keep his wife and two young children in our prayers. pic.twitter.com/GC7AIEIWrT
— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) February 18, 2021
The #stpetepd family sends sincerest condolences to our brothers & sisters @SheriffPinellas. We thank your fallen hero, Deputy Michael J. Magli, for his service & sacrifice. You all & his loved ones will continue to be in our thoughts & prayers. pic.twitter.com/OCg4t6Z2ul
— St. Pete Police (@StPetePD) February 18, 2021
It was with great sadness that we at FSA lower our U.S. Flag in honor of @SheriffPinellas Deputy Sheriff Michael Magli. Dep Magli was Killed in Action on February 17th in Tarpon Springs as he attempted to stop an impaired driver. He is survived by his wife and two small children. pic.twitter.com/pTqmtbuZMP
— Florida Sheriffs (@FLSheriffs) February 18, 2021
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Magli, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.