Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando deputy, father of two, dies in crash during chase

Hernando County Sheriff’s Deputy John Mecklenburg, 35, lost control of his car and hit a tree in Pasco County during a Sunday morning chase, authorities said. A second deputy also was hurt.

Bay News 9

Hernando County Sheriff’s Deputy John Mecklenburg, 35, lost control of his car and hit a tree in Pasco County during a Sunday morning chase, authorities said. A second deputy also was hurt.

A Hernando County Sheriff's Office deputy died and another was injured in crashes during a high-speed chase Sunday morning that spanned four counties, starting in Brooksville and ending in St. Petersburg.

Deputy John Mecklenburg , 35, died after losing control of his car and slamming into a tree along U.S. 41 in Pasco County. Mecklenburg was the married father of two and an Army veteran.

"Hernando County lost a hero today," Sheriff Al Nienhuis said Sunday. "He made the ultimate sacrifice."

The pursuit began after Brooksville police officers saw a car traveling the wrong way on U.S. 41 around 4:40 a.m.

The man Mecklenburg was chasing — Michael James Anthony, 35, of Silver Springs — was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol just after 5 a.m. when his car was spotted on the side of the road in Pinellas County.

Anthony, a felon on probation, is no stranger to law enforcement or chases. He has been convicted of several crimes including fleeing and eluding authorities, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Late Sunday, Anthony was being booked into the Pinellas County Jail. The only charge listed was a probation violation, but he faces multiple charges, the Sheriff's Office said.

"We're going to make sure he gets exactly what justice calls for," Nienhuis said.

Brooksville officers started following Anthony's 1991 Honda Accord after they saw him driving recklessly, authorities said. They were soon joined by Hernando deputies, who followed him south, said Deputy Wendy McGinnis, a Hernando County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

The first chase ended with an unsuccessful attempt by authorities to spin out Anthony's car, according to the FHP.

Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Ross lost control of his cruiser at U.S. 41 and Ayers Road and hit a pickup truck and a power pole, said troopers. Ross suffered minor injuries. No civilians were injured.

Mecklenburg continued chasing Anthony south into Pasco, before he lost control of his cruiser and veered off U.S. 41 and into a tree.

His car briefly caught fire. After the blaze was put out, Mecklenburg was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and died there at 9:21 a.m., Nienhuis said.

Anthony, meanwhile, continued south through Pasco and Hillsborough counties and into Pinellas until his car rolled to a stop on the shoulder of Fourth Street N, near Interstate 275, he FHP said. A trooper saw the car there with three flat tires. Anthony surrendered without incident at 5:09 a.m., the FHP said.

Police did not say how fast Anthony was driving, but he traveled from downtown Brooksville to north St. Petersburg, a distance of about 50 miles, in less than 30 minutes, according to police reports.

Nienhuis said that deputies pursued Anthony because he was endangering others. "Not intervening would obviously have put lives at risk," he said.

Anthony's arrest added another line to a long record that started in Florida in 1998, when he was charged with disorderly conduct in Punta Gorda. He pleaded no contest and adjudication was withheld, records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show.

In October 2002, Anthony was convicted of burglary, grand theft and grand theft motor vehicle in Charlotte County and given three years of supervised release, according to the FDLE. After he violated the terms of that release, he was sentenced to a year in jail in December 2003, according to Charlotte County court records.

In 2004, he was sentenced to a year in prison for a fleeing and eluding conviction in Hardee County stemming from a January 2002 incident, according to the FDLE.

Anthony is currently on probation, court records show.

In March 2008, he was convicted of grand theft and possession of drug paraphernalia and given four years of probation. He twice violated that probation but was ultimately given more probation — three years — in April 2010, Charlotte court records show.

Mecklenburg's death is the first for a Hernando sheriff's deputy in the line of duty in two years, and the third in the past 33 years.

Capt. Scott Bierwiler was killed in a crash while driving to work in February 2009.

He had been considered a top contender to replace former Sheriff Richard Nugent, who left office after he was elected to the U.S. House.

Bierwiler's death came 31 years to the month after Deputy Lonnie Coburn was shot and killed in February 1978 during a struggle with two men who had raped and killed a pregnant woman.

Mecklenburg, a Green Bay, Wis., native, joined the force in January 2009.

"There are a lot of people hurting right now in the Hernando County Sheriff's Office," Nienhuis said.

Mecklenburg leaves behind his wife, Penny, a Hernando High School teacher, and their two children — Andrew, 5, and Jessica, 18 months.

Jason Galitsky, a family friend, remembered Sunday a conversation he once had with Mecklenburg about high-speed chases.

"He wasn't a reckless movie cop, someone who's going to rev up the engine and go after this guy," Galitsky said. "He wouldn't do it unless he knew other people were in danger."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writers John Woodrow Cox and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at 727-445-4167 or whobson@sptimes.com.

Hernando deputy, father of two, dies in crash during chase 07/03/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 4, 2011 11:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn proposes $974 million budget for 2018

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn today proposed a $974.2 million budget for next year that would raise the city's property tax rate for the first time since 1989 and use the additional revenue to improve parks, expand fire service and prepare for looming financial challenges in the years ahead.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn presented his proposed $974.2 million budget for 2018 to the City Council on Thursday. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times (2016)
  2. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.
  3. Florida house where O.J. Simpson lived listed for $1.3 million

    Crime

    MIAMI — What happened to the Florida home where O.J. Simpson lived with his children after his acquittal in the death of his ex-wife and her friend?

    O.J. Simpson explains his golf scoring to his daughter, Sydney, as he played golf on Key Biscayne in Miami in 1997. The house south of Miami where Simpson lived with Sydney and his son, Justin, until his 2008 conviction in an armed robbery involving two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas, is on the market. [AP photo]
  4. Behind the lens: To capture an exhilarating moment, it's better to be lucky AND good

    Travel

    Editor's note: Boyzell Hosey, our Assistant Managing Editor - Photography/Multimedia, shot this image while on a family vacation in Alaska. Below is his description of the shot.

  5. Council candidate James Scott sees a green future for St. Petersburg

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG — James Scott's central tenet is sustainability.

    St. Petersburg City Council District 6 candidate James Scott. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]