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Funeral set for Hernando County deputy who died pursuing suspect in multicounty chase

SPRING HILL — The funeral for Hernando Deputy John Mecklenburg — killed Sunday morning after a high-speed chase — will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church in Spring Hill.

The burial will follow at Florida Hills Memorial Park off Spring Hill Drive. At the family's request, the services will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the John Mecklenburg Fund through Florida Traditions Bank at 4301 Barclay Ave. in Spring Hill.

Early Sunday, Mecklenburg, 35, lost control of his cruiser during a chase and struck a tree. Mecklenburg, a husband and father of two young children, was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and died there at 9:21 a.m. after receiving three blood transfusions.

At the time of the wreck, authorities say, Mecklenburg was chasing 35-year-old Michael James Anthony, a felon who was on probation and had been ordered to follow a strict drug offender curfew each night.

Minutes earlier, Brooksville police officers had spotted Anthony's car speeding the wrong way on U.S. 41. Authorities say Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Ross later lost control of his vehicle and hit a pickup truck and a power pole. He had minor injuries.

Soon after, Mecklenburg also crashed.

Anthony, caught in Pinellas County, faces charges of felony murder, violation of probation and fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

Tuesday, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office released the agency's pursuit policy. Although the investigation into Sunday's chase is in its early stages, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Wendy McGinnis said officials "have found no material violations of the agency's pursuit or response to resistance policies" by deputies involved in the chase. A supervisor, she said, also monitored the pursuit.

The agency's policy allows deputies to initiate pursuits "when the driver of a motor vehicle is suspected of committing a violent felony." The guidelines don't restrict deputies from chasing suspects into other counties.

Sunday, as the vehicles neared the county line at 4:13 a.m., Pasco officials said Hernando authorities informed them of the chase. Six minutes later, Pasco deputies received the following message: "Hernando deputy in vehicle accident. Vehicle on fire. Serious injuries."

Gov. Rick Scott has released a statement offering his condolences to the Mecklenburgs:

"It is with a heavy heart that I ask my fellow Floridians to keep the Mecklenburg family in your thoughts and prayers," he said. "Even as we celebrate our nation's independence, we must remember that men and women in uniform, be they in the Armed Forces abroad, or our law enforcement officers here at home, put their lives on the line every day to protect the American way of life."

Times staff writer Jamie Klein contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@sptimes.com.

Funeral set for Hernando County deputy who died pursuing suspect in multicounty chase 07/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 5:05pm]
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