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Suspect in fatal crash during chase facing charge of attempted murder of Hernando deputy

BROOKSVILLE — Michael James Anthony, transferred Wednesday night to the Hernando County Jail, has now been arrested on a charge of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

During a chase early Sunday morning — which eventually led to the death of Hernando Deputy John Mecklenburg after his patrol car struck a tree in Pasco County — Hernando Sgt. Brandon Ross also lost control of his vehicle and hit a pickup truck and a power pole. He suffered minor injuries.

Anthony faces a charge of attempted murder because he rammed Ross off the road, Assistant State Attorney Donald "Sonny" McCathran said he was told by investigators.

Authorities, McCathran said, are also still looking into whether Anthony was on drugs at the time of the chase.

He spent several days in a hospital after his arrest in Pinellas County Sunday morning. Though authorities have not said why Anthony was hospitalized, McCathran said he intends to subpoena the suspect's medical records.

The 35-year-old felon from Silver Springs already faces a felony murder charge in Pasco. During the pursuit, investigators say, Mecklenburg crashed and was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa where later he died.

In Hernando, Anthony also faces a reckless driving charge and two counts of fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. Some of those counts, McCathran said, will likely be consolidated.

Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office released a video showing roughly four minutes of the pursuit. It was shot just after 4 a.m. from the dashboard camera of Brooksville Police Sgt. Ed Serrano. As Serrano neared the intersection of E Jefferson Street and U.S. 41 in downtown Brooksville, Anthony drove through a red light going the opposite direction. Serrano spun his car around and chased after him.

Anthony, who never appeared to drive more than about 40 or 50 mph, soon began veering between lanes and nearly clipped a line of divider poles in the road. Near the video's end, Anthony — in what appeared to be an intentional move — came within feet of slamming head-on into two oncoming cars.

Eventually, McCathran said, Anthony could also be charged with two counts of assault with a motor vehicle for that encounter.

"Hopefully those people come forward," McCathran said. "They're going to remember that incident."

Deputies have asked that anyone with information to call the major case unit at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office at (352) 754-6830 and ask for either Sgt. Philip Lakin or Lt. Cyrus Robinson.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@sptimes.com.

>>Fast Facts

Funeral services today

The funeral for Hernando Deputy John Mecklenburg will be held today at 11 a.m. at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church at 5030 Mariner Blvd. in Spring Hill. His interment will follow at Florida Hills Memorial Park at 14354 Spring Hill Drive. The procession from the funeral to Florida Hills will begin at about 12:30 p.m. and will run south on Mariner Boulevard and east on Spring Hill Drive to the cemetery. All intersections on that route will be blocked during the procession, which could be lengthy. The funeral is open to the public.

Suspect in fatal crash during chase facing charge of attempted murder of Hernando deputy 07/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 7:11pm]
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