Sheriff: Suspect who hit, killed deputy was drunk, driving on suspended license

The Pinellas County Sheriff says a deputy has died after a crash at East Lake Road near Forelock Road.

The crash happened shortly after 4:30 Wednesday near Brooker Creek Elementary School in Tarpon Springs, part of northern Pinellas County.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Deputy Michael Magli was hit by a suspect who was driving recklessly. Magli had deployed stop sticks to get the suspect's vehicle to stop.

Deputy Michael Magli, courtesy Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

It started after someone called to report a person "passed out" in their vehicle near Forelock Road. East Lake Fire Rescue responded and found the white pickup truck parked on the roadway with a man inside. The crew broke the truck's window to try and help him, but the man woke up and took off. 

Two nearby deputies began going in the same direction. The sheriff said the deputies were not in active pursuit of the truck.

Crash involving deputy at East Lake Road

Another sheriff's sergeant saw the truck and was going to make a traffic stop, but Gualtieri said the driver of the truck jumped the median to make a u-turn and went the other direction. The sergeant later caught up with the truck, spotting it in a turn lane for south East Lake Road. 

The suspect fled again, making the turn onto East Lake. Sheriff Gualtieri said the vehicle was swerving and the driver was behaving erratically.

Deputy Michael Magli was nearby, on East Lake Road. He parked his vehicle in the median and began to deploy stop sticks, which would deflate the suspect's tires.

Crash involving deputy at East Lake Road

The sheriff says as Magli moved the stop sticks onto the roadway, the suspect's vehicle went out of control, flipped over, and "very, very violently hit the deputy and his cruiser."

Magli was pinned under the car and died at the scene.

The sheriff said the suspect, 33-year-old Robert Allen Holzaepfel, was intoxicated. He has been arrested. 

Robert Holzaepfel, prior arrest photo courtesy Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

The deputy said Holzaepfel was driving on a suspended license, was on probation, and had 16 prior felony convictions on his record.

Deputy Magli is survived by a wife and two children, and his mother and father.

The scene was still active Wednesday night. The sheriff said East Lake Road, between Keystone Road and Ridgemore Boulevard, would remain closed until mid-morning Thursday. Deputies would be on the scene to help drivers get around the crash site.

Pinellas County Schools has informed families from Brooker Creek Elementary, East Lake High School, East Lake Middle School and Cypress Woods Elementary to allow extra time on their way to school tomorrow morning for detours due to road closures.