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Man suspected of killing Pinellas County deputy in hit-and-run crash taken into custody, deputies say

Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, reportedly came into the U.S. illegally from Mexico back in October 2021.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — 2 p.m. update:

The real name of the man arrested who allegedly killed a Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy is Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, according to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

During a news conference, the sheriff said they learned they were originally given a false name. Molina-Salles reportedly came into the U.S. illegally from Mexico back in October 2021.

He is 32 years old and has been in the Tampa Bay area since March, the agency explains.

It was originally reported that the man was named Victor Vazquez-Real and was 35.

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The man suspected of killing a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputy in a hit-and-run crash on I-275 in St. Petersburg has been taken into custody, according to the sheriff's office. 

Deputies say Juan Ariel Molina-Salles, 32, initially ran from the scene on foot. Initially, he'd given deputies a different name upon his arrest.

The sheriff's office said Deputy Michael Hartwick was called to help overnight construction crews to keep them safe. He got there around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. He had safety gear on when he got out of his car and was standing on the shoulder when he was hit by a front loader. The crash happened around 11 p.m.

Hartwick died at the scene. He was 51 years old.

Credit: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
Juan Ariel Molina-Salles


"Deputy Hartwick is survived by his two adult sons. We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Deputy Hartwick’s family during this difficult time. Please keep his loved ones along with our PCSO family in your thoughts and prayers."

It is with extraordinary sadness that we announce that Deputy Michael Hartwick was killed in the line of duty late...

Posted by Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Friday, September 23, 2022

As a result of the crash, the northbound I-275 entrance at Roosevelt Boulevard is closed. Southbound traffic onto I-275 at Roosevelt Boulevard will stay open. All lanes of Roosevelt Boulevard are open.

Drivers can expect traffic delays until midday, the sheriff's office said. 

RELATED: Deadly hit-and-run accident involving Pinellas County deputy restricts access to Howard Frankland Bridge SB

RELATED: 5th Avenue reopens following crash involving ambulance in St. Petersburg

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