Florida deputy killed by unlawful immigrant in hit-and-run earlier than fleeing scene, sheriff says

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A person arrested in the death of a Florida sheriff’s deputy was living in the United States illegally, sources informed Fox Information. 

Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The cost stems from the Thursday hit-and-run demise of Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy Michael Hartwick, a 19-year veteran who left behind two grownup sons. 

Hartwick was working a site visitors element in a building zone at night time when Molina-Salles was driving a entrance loader that hit Hartwick, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri mentioned Friday. He mentioned the driving force of the automobile was going “I feel too quick.”

“He fled as he mentioned as a result of he grew to become afraid after he killed the deputy, however he clearly knew he killed the deputy,” he mentioned. 


Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick was killed Thursday after being struck by a building automobile pushed by a person dwelling in america illegally, authorities mentioned. 
(Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace)

After placing Hartwick, Molina-Salles allegedly stored going and informed one other building employee he had simply killed a deputy. He then took off his building hat and site visitors vest and allegedly handed it to the employee and informed him to cover it. 

The employee, recognized as Elieswer Gomez-Zelaya, dumped the objects within the woods, Gualtieri mentioned. 

Gomez-Zelaya was within the U.S. illegally from Honduras and was arrested and charged with being an adjunct, authorities mentioned. 

Upon being confronted by investigators, Molina-Salles gave them a pretend title and mentioned he was from Puerto Rico, authorities mentioned. He entered the U.S. illegally on Oct. 25, 2021 by means of Eagle Go, Texas, Gualtieri mentioned. 

He was rotated and despatched again to Mexico by the Border Patrol, he mentioned. 

“There is no such thing as a file of him ever legally coming again into america, and he was right here illegally,” Gualtieri informed reporters. 

Molina-Salles allegedly admitted to authorities that he illegally got here again into the U.S. through Texas and has been within the Tampa space since March. Throughout the investigation, the vast majority of building employees on the scene gave authorities false names and lied, Gualtieri mentioned. 

Juan Molina-Salles, an illegal immigrant living in the Unites States, fatally struck Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick with a construction vehicle and fled the scene, authorities said. 

Juan Molina-Salles, an unlawful immigrant dwelling within the Unites States, fatally struck Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hartwick with a building automobile and fled the scene, authorities mentioned. 
(Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace)

“They have been hindering the investigation, not giving us solutions to the questions we wanted,” he mentioned.

He added the employees have been employed by an organization doing contract work for the state Division of Transportation. Molina-Salles informed the development firm he did building in Honduras earlier than being employed. He gave the corporate a pretend ID card, authorities mentioned.

“He didn’t have a driver’s license. He’s obtained nothing. He shouldn’t have been right here to start with, and he shouldn’t have been driving,” Gualtieri mentioned. “He shouldn’t have been working…He has no {qualifications} to drive a entrance loader.”

The state Transportation Division informed Fox Information it follows strict hiring procedures in addition to its contractors. 

“Whereas it seems that these hiring procedures have been adopted, together with a federal E-Confirm clearance verify, and the people in query handed this federal clearance, the Division is initiating an inside assessment on this venture contract. FDOT may also proceed to assist regulation enforcement efforts as investigations proceed,” the company mentioned. 

The workplace of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis informed Fox Information it was investigating the matter and seeking to decide if unlawful immigrants have used false info to acquire employment with contractors working with the state. 

“As we accumulate particulars and look at potential programs of motion, we’re reminded as soon as once more that unlawful immigration is a critical and ongoing drawback in america that has a multifaceted impact on Florida,” the assertion mentioned. “If this particular person’s unlawful standing performed into his resolution to attempt to cowl up this incident, it underscores simply one of many harms that our state faces due to the federal authorities’s open border insurance policies. The State of Florida is just not a sanctuary state and unlawful immigrants should not approved to work right here. For causes corresponding to this, we’ll proceed our lawful efforts to interdict and relocate unlawful immigrants.”


Fox Information has reached out to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the state Division of Transportation and the corporate that employed Molina-Salles. 

DeSantis has stepped up efforts to discourage unlawful immigration, not too long ago flying Venezuelan migrants in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a transfer that infuriated Democrats. 

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