Deputy Michael J. Magli was killed Feb. 17, 2021, while trying to stop a fleeing pickup truck driven by a man accused of driving drunk.
D'Ann Lawrence White
TARPON SPRINGS, FL — A year after his death, Pinellas County sheriff's personnel are remembering Deputy Michael J. Magli, who was run down by a man accused of driving drunk while Magli was attempting to stop the driver from harming anyone as he speeded down East Lake Road as the rush hour was beginning.
On Feb. 17, 2021, Magli parking his cruiser across East Lake Road and was placing stop sticks in the road to blow out the tires of speeding car when the driver struck him with his pickup truck. Magli was pinned beneath his cruiser and died at the scene.
After hosting fishing and golf tournaments, along with other events in the year since Magli's death, the sheriff's office is continuing to raise money for Magli's wife and children through the Deputy Michael J. Magli Memorial Fund.
In December, the sheriff's office in collaboration with the nonprofit Saving A Hero's Place, dedicated an honor chair to Magli, symbolic of "saving his place" in the history of the sheriff's office.
The honor chair is located in the main lobby of the sheriff’s Largo administration building in front of the Wall of Honor. Saving A Hero’s Place crafts honor chairs for first responders who have died in the line of duty.
"Some will say that Michael was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I say nonsense," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "Deputy Michael J. Magli was in the right place at the right time doing what cops do every day throughout this country: protecting others, even if it means grave personal danger to themselves."
The sheriff's office posted a tribute to the fallen deputy on its Facebook page Thursday.
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"Deputy Magli and his family will always have a place in our hearts at the PCSO, and each year on this day, we will honor his sacrifice," Gualtieri said.
He added that Feb. 17 "will always be our darkest day."
"This is the first line-of-duty death in the sheriff’s office’s 109-year history," he said. "We never wanted this day to come, but we will continue to remember and honor Deputy Magli’s life. His name will be inscribed on our memorial in front of the sheriff’s administration building, but more importantly, his name will be inscribed in our hearts forever."
Gualtieri said Magli's death is a reminder of the sacrifices his deputies make every day.
"Their mission is to protect and serve the citizens of Pinellas County, and they put themselves in harm’s way to save lives," he said. "Their oath is not limited to working hours; they are committed to protecting the public 24/7 and have a duty to act when evil enters their path."
Magli had been with the sheriff's office since 2013, and Gualtieri said his example is a reminder that a deputy's responsibilities go beyond his official duties.
It "involves matters of the heart. He cared about people and went out of his way to show it, whether it was telling a fellow deputy a joke when they felt down, taking extra time on a domestic call to ensure the couple was OK, or simply giving a citizen a bright smile as he crossed their path," Gualtieri said.
Robert Allen Holzaepfel was charged with first-degree murder, DUI manslaughter, driving while his license was suspended, leaving the scene of a crash involving property damage and aggravated fleeing and eluding police officers following Magli's death.
At the time of the crash, Holzaepfel had a blood-alcohol level of .230 percent. Under Florida law, a driver can be declared legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent.
Gualtieri said Magli's wife, two daughters and parents will "never be the same over some drunk who's got 16 felony convictions and who's driving with a suspended license, who's fleeing from the cops, who's driving like a maniac."
Those interested in donating to the memorial fund can drop off contributions at any SunTrust bank location or can mail a check to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Fiscal Affairs Bureau made payable to the Memorial for Michael J. Magli, P.O. Drawer 2500, Largo, FL 33779-2500.