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Pinellas Deputy Michael Magli, killed in the line of duty, is honored

Hundreds gathered to remember Pinellas sheriff’s Deputy Michael J. Magli, who died after being struck by a fleeing driver.
Fallen Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael J. Magli’s wife Stephanie Magli is comforted during his funeral services on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
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Fallen Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael J. Magli’s wife Stephanie Magli is comforted during his funeral services on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 23
Updated Feb. 24

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It has never before happened in the century-plus history of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office: A deputy was killed in the line of duty.

The community will gather Tuesday at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz to remember Deputy Michael J. Magli, 30, who died Feb. 17 after he was struck by a man driving drunkenly and recklessly along East Lake Road, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Related: ‘His soul was good.’ Pinellas Deputy Michael Magli is mourned

Magli was trying to lay a tire-deflating device down on the roadway to stop the driver when he was struck, the agency said.

The deputy leaves behind a wife, Stephanie, and two children, Madeline, age 5, 9-month-old Reagan.

Below are highlights from the solemn celebration of the deputy’s life.

Related: Pinellas sheriff’s deputy killed trying to stop drunken driver, sheriff says
Related: Pinellas community mourns deputy killed in line of duty
Related: Driver accused of killing Pinellas deputy had blood alcohol level nearly triple limit, deputies say
• • •
The program from the Feb. 23 funeral of Pinellas Sheriff's Deputy Michael Magli, killed in the line of duty.
The program from the Feb. 23 funeral of Pinellas Sheriff's Deputy Michael Magli, killed in the line of duty. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
• • •

1:30 p.m. ‘84 Alpha please respond’

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office honor guard fired a 21-gun salute in honor of Deputy Michael J. Magli, the first deputy in the 109-year history of the agency to die in the line of duty.

The salute took place at 1:30 p.m. A bugler played “Taps.”

Six minutes later, seven helicopters flew over the Lutz church in the v-shaped missing man formation with one aircraft missing.

The honor guard then conducted the ceremonial folding of the American flag draped over Magli’s casket into a triangle. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri presented it to the fallen deputy’s wife, Stephanie Magli.

At 1:43 p.m., bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”

Someone passed out during the ceremony and was attended to by paramedics.

At 1:50 p.m., a sheriff’s dispatcher twice called out Magli’s call-sign: “84 Alpha.”

“84 Alpha please respond,” the dispatcher said.

Then the Sheriff’s Office retired Magli’s call-sign.

“He was a dedicated husband, loving father of two children and loving friend,” the dispatcher said.

The funeral procession then lined up again to head to the private burial ceremony at Trinity Memorial Gardens.

People lined up along the route to say goodbye to Magli.

• • •

12:45 p.m. End of watch ceremony

The service for Pinellas sheriff’s Deputy Michael J. Magli has moved outside Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. Hundreds of law enforcement officers are standing at attention, awaiting the end of watch ceremony.

There will be the traditional 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and the final radio call, when Magli’s call-sign will be called one last time by a dispatcher and then retired in his honor.

A group of law enforcement helicopters will also fly overhead in the missing man formation.

Then a private burial ceremony will be held at Trinity Memorial Gardens.

• • •

12:30 p.m. How Michael met Stephanie

During the benediction, Senior Pastor Ken Whitten shared the story of how Deputy Michael Magli and wife Stephanie met:

“He went to Hudson High School and she went to Mitchell High School, and I don’t know if there’s a written law in Pasco County that you can’t marry people from Hudson High School if you went to Mitchell High School.

Stephanie was having a bad day, the pastor said, after locking her keys in her car and spilling ketchup all over herself. Then she met Michael Magli for the first time. He could tell she was having a rough day.

“Do you need a hug?” he asked her.

“Is that a great pickup line or what?” the pastor said. “She said no, but she did. And she still does … He married way up and everyone in this room knows that he did.

“We weep because we will miss this kind, gentle ... man who thought he was average but he was exemplary in every way.

“If you got around Michael, he loved you. He was kind. He had a humble heart. It was always you before him: That was his mantra.”

• • •

12:30 p.m. Deputies remember their comrade

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies attend the funeral service for Deputy Michael J. Magli at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies attend the funeral service for Deputy Michael J. Magli at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Pinellas deputies were the next to speak, starting with Deputy Nick Hunter:

“Michael and I had a bit of a bromance,” he said.

“I’ve thought about what to say and how to say it ever since (the night of Feb. 17.) I wanted to make you laugh the whole time because that’s who I am but this is not for me, it’s for Michael.

“Michael is an absolute hero in every sense of the word.”

They started working together in 2014, Hunter said. Both talked on the phone as they commuted to work in Pinellas “mostly trying to keep each other awake,” Hunter said.

“The biggest thing I remember about Michael is that he never backed down from a fight. He never hesitated. I’ve had other cops tell me they were scared on certain calls, but Michael, he never did that.”

Hunter recalled one night when they were dispatched to try and stop a drive-by shooting. He said Magli ran toward the gunfire: “He was a true badass.”

So when Magli learned that deputies were pursuing an impaired driver, Hunter said, “he knew this car had to be stopped. He never hesitated, even though we all wish he would’ve.

“I know Michael would make the same sacrifice to save those who were in danger again.

“Stephanie, I may have lost a brother that day, but I know Candace and I gained you as a sister. … We’ll always be here for you and the girls.”

Then Deputy Chris Russell gave his remarks:

“I wrote this speech for Mike. Everyone who knows Mike knows there are not enough words to describe him. I wrote this and rewrote it probably five times. But nothing I can say in this letter will ever express how much I love Mike and how much he meant to me. He was my best friend for almost 20 years.

“Every time I had to ask something, Mike was the first person I called.

“When I went to the Marines, Mike was so mad at me,” Russell said. “I remember him calling me, (saying) there’s no way you’re going to do this … you’re not going. I said Mike I really am.

“Mike made me come over. (His mother) Angela laid into me for probably 25, 30 minutes, asking, ‘Chris do you really think you can do this? I said I think so mama — it’s probably too late now I already signed the paperwork.’

“When I came back from the Marines, Mike grew up faster than all of us. … Mike was married to Stephanie; Stephanie was pregnant with Maddie; they had their house and I’m running around trying to figure out what to do with my life.”

It was Michael Magli who convinced Russell to join the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

“I will remember this moment for the rest of my life,” Russell said. “Mike sitting on my couch looks over at me and says, ‘God dammit we’re best friends again, aren’t we? I said ‘Yeah, I think you’re stuck with me buddy.’

“Whether you met him once or you’ve been in his life 20 years, Mike loved every single one of you. That’s just the person he was.”

• • •

12 p.m. Deputy Magli’s family speaks

A picture of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Deputy Michael J. Magli with his newborn baby is projected on a wall during his funeral service on Tuesday at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
A picture of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Deputy Michael J. Magli with his newborn baby is projected on a wall during his funeral service on Tuesday at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Frank Magli took the stage and told the mourners about his son.

“My son Michael Magli was one of Pinellas County’s finest deputies, at least I think he was.

“Michael was a bright beautiful light who went into law enforcement to help his fellow man. I remember saying ‘Mike I think you’d be a great police officer, because you’re kind, compassionate.’ He had the kind of personality that could defuse any situation.”

“He was fearless. I knew this from watching him play (defensive end) at Hudson High School. He’d line up across from guys twice his size … His last season was his best season. He said ‘I’m gonna do it my way.’ He had the most sacks in his conference that year

“Michael, my heart’s broken, and I sorely miss you.”

Then the deputy’s brother, Connor Magli, spoke:

“MightyMags — that was to be his screen name if he ever got around to it. I always made fun of him for it … Now it seems more fitting.

“I’ve come to realize you don’t get to choose to be a hero. Heroism chooses you.”

“We all grow up to think of heroes as some powerful meta-human that’s different from you and I. In actuality it’s not some superpower that makes you a hero. It’s a selfless act of bravery.”

“My family and I are proud of our hero, Deputy Michael J. Magli, my big brother.”

Then father-in-law Robert Schaefer addressed the gathering:

“As we look down the first few rows where we see his family, then we look out into the church and see the people that Michael touched — this too would be part of his family.”

“His family — this is where we feel he shined the brightest.”

The deputy’s uncle, Sal Gallo, also spoke:

“I stand up here a very proud uncle. I couldn’t have asked for a better nephew.”

When Magli was born in 1990, he became the first “Michael” to join the large Italian family: You throw a rock and you hit Anthony, Pete and Joey. But we didn’t have a Michael. His cousins quickly announced him ‘The Little Prince.’

“A lot of people here know the man. I remember the nephew, my little buddy. I took him to the movies, took him to his first professional football game — Tampa Bay Bucs! … His dad and I took him to his first Lightning game and he became as a big Lightning fan as I was.

“Rest in peace our little angel, our little prince. Rest in peace, my little hero. You’ll never be forgotten.”

Senior Pastor Ken Whitten read a statement from the deputy’s mother, Angela:

“From the moment he came into this world he was my light strength friend and sometimes even my voice of reason Today everyone is here to honor the man that child had become. My son has made me proud throughout his life for the way he conducted himself, and this heroic act was no surprise.”

“From the time my children were born I told each of them that no matter what they did or what happened in life I will love them unconditionally … What they should hope for even more than that is that I not only love them, I like them … I want you all to know, I truly liked Michael James Magli.”

“We as a fam have lost a v important influential presence in our lives. And my hope is that this tragedy has brought us all together today.”

— Jack Evans

• • •

11:45 p.m. Stephanie Magli remembers her husband

Here are some remarks from the deputy’s widow, Stephanie Magli:

“I couldn’t write anything. I tried and I tried and everything I wrote just didn’t feel real,” she said, sobbing. “It didn’t feel like I could convey how I felt. Michael’s my best friend. He was my partner.

“His soul was good. And everybody that knew him knew that. He was a good person deep down. Michael wouldn’t want any of this. Michael was very humble, he liked to hang back and stay in the background.

“I told him, I don’t care, you’re getting this, you deserve this.”

“I just love him so much. And I wish it was different.”

“Michael loved our girls. He loved our girls so much … He was the best partner. I keep trying to remind myself he’s still here with us. He will still be with our girls. I just want everyone to know that our family appreciates all of you.

“I don’t want to say goodbye. I’m not ready. Eleven years was not long enough.”

— Jack Evans

• • •

11:30 p.m. Sheriff recounts Deputy Magli’s life

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, remembers Deputy Michael J. Magli during Tuesday's funeral service at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, remembers Deputy Michael J. Magli during Tuesday's funeral service at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Gualtieri continued his remarks:

“There are no words that can make sense of the senseless, no actions that can undo that which cannot be undone, no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, so I’m not going to try.

“You will hear from his family and friends about Mike Magli the husband, dad, son, brother, beloved family member, best friend (or in today’s terms BFF).”

Magli joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2013, helping with security. Then in 2014 he became a deputy-recruit, training to become a sworn law enforcement officer. He completed his training and joined patrol, first working the night shift in central Pinellas. Then he started working dayshift in the East Lake area.

“After making the drive several times in the last week from Mike and Stephanie’s home in Land O’ Lakes,” the sheriff said, “I now know why Mike decided” to work as far north in Pinellas County as possible.

Gualtieri talked about his recent conversations with the deputy’s widow, Stephanie Magli, and joked about how quickly her husband got home after his shift.

“I told her she just dimed her husband out because there’s no way you can make it from East Lake to Land O’ Lakes in half an hour unless you leave your shift a little early — or a lot early,” he said.

The crowd laughed. The sheriff also talked about a call a year ago that he made sure Deputy Michael Magli wouldn’t have to respond to with 15 minutes left in his shift.

“Little did I know Mike was probably sitting in his driveway when I called him,” Gualtieri said, “Mike, we’re gonna let that slide.”

Then the crowd really started laughing.

“Mike probably wanted to get home because Mike had two beautiful kids that he wanted to see: 5-year-old Maddie and 9-month-old Reagan and the love of his life, Stephanie.”

Stephanie and Mike “Shared a unique bond and love many people would be jealous of. … Your commitment to each other over those 11 years can never be taken away from you.”

The sheriff noted that Michael Magli was a “big sports fan,” especially of the Lightning, and also enjoyed online gaming.

The name Mike Magli, Gualtieri said, garnered the same reaction whenever it came up at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office: “He was a nice guy and he was fair.

“But make no mistake: Mike liked to take care of business … Mike was a cop who put plenty of bad guys in jail.

“When Mike heard a reckless and possibly intoxicated driver was on East Lake Road endangering others, he knew it was serious … Mike knew that guy had to be stopped because he was going to seriously hurt or kill someone.

“Mike did everything right and acted consistent with his training. While Mike tragically lost his life, he was a hero who undoubtedly saved many lives.”

That’s because East Lake Road was backed up, the sheriff said, and an impaired driver could have caused a lot of damage and injured a lot of people.

”The guy could’ve hit a ton of cars if he’d gotten any farther,” Gualtieri said. “Know that Deputy Michael J. Magli died a hero and saved countless lives.”

Then the sheriff addressed Stephanie Magli: “You’re an amazing and strong lady with two beautiful girls.”

“Family protects and takes care of family. We will take care of you and we will protect you.”

— Jack Evans

• • •

11:15 a.m. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri speaks

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri addressed Magli’s family and the hundreds who gathered at Idlewild Baptist Church:

”Michael died fighting the good fight, fighting the evil among us and saving others from harm’s way, and for that we are eternally grateful,” the sheriff said.

”There is no understanding why acts like this happen. Some will say that Michael was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I say nonsense. Deputy Michael J. Magli was in the right place at the right time doing what cops do every day throughout this country.

”Today is our darkest hour. The (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office) was formed 109 years ago and we are 3000 members strong. But this is a day that we feared would come and hoped it never would. This is our first and hopefully last line of duty death.

“We now join a club that we wanted no part of but are forced to join. We will do our best, Mike, to honor you.”

Senior Pastor Ken Whitten also spoke:

”We’re going to do something today that Michael Magli would not be real crazy about, and that’s making a big deal about him. But we’re going to do that because he deserves that. A very unassuming guy, he did everything he did with excellence.”

— Jack Evans

• • •

10:50 a.m. Distributing the funeral programs

Guests are receiving the special program for the services, which lists as speakers Deputy Magli’s wife, father and brother, as well as Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Guests begin to arrive Tuesday morning at the funeral for Pinellas County sheriff's Deputy Michael Magli at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
Guests begin to arrive Tuesday morning at the funeral for Pinellas County sheriff's Deputy Michael Magli at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
• • •

10:45 a.m. Awaiting the start of the funeral

Idlewild Baptist Church seats 5,000 at full capacity and it’s operating at half that for the funeral, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By 10 a.m., when the church opened its doors to the public, the parking lot was already packed, with a steady stream of mourners filing in. Uniformed deputies filled many of the pews on the ground level of the worship center.

As contemporary Christian music played softly, a slideshow on two large screens showed Magli throughout his 30 years. Here he was as a dark-haired boy, flashing a shy smile at the camera; as a young man, throwing a peace sign, his arm around a friend; as a man, dancing on his wedding day, or posing in his uniform, or playing jubilantly with his two daughters, one now 5 years old and the other just under a year old.

In an interview last week, Magli’s aunt Mona Johnson remembered him as a shy boy coming out of his shell, a young man hungry to work for the Sheriff’s Office, and a dad unafraid to belt “Let It Go,” from Disney’s Frozen, at the top of his lungs.

”I think he would want people to know that he loved his job. He loved his wife. He loved his children,” Johnson said. “They were his world.”

— Jack Evans

• • •

10:20 a.m. Tweets of condolence from across the state

Members of Congress, county commissions, and law enforcement agencies from across Florida are tweeting their condolences to the family of Deputy Magli and the community he served.

• • •

9:55 a.m. Motorcycles poised to lead procession

Law enforcement officers on motorcycles will lead the way for the procession following the funeral. They’ve arrived at Idlewild Baptist Church.

• • •

9:30 a.m. Hudson High School remembers graduate Magli

The Pasco County high school tweeted a video of the procession carrying the body of Deputy Magli. The school says Magli was a graduate.

Magli joined the Sheriff’s Office as a civilian employee in 2013, working as a criminal justice specialist at the courthouse, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. He became a patrol deputy in north Pinellas County the next year. He was married and had two young children.

• • •

9:00 a.m. Traffic alerts for procession

Law enforcement agencies are warning people to be careful along the procession of vehicles expected from Idlewild Baptist Church to Deputy Magli’s burial site, Trinity Memorial Gardens at 12609 Memorial Drive in Trinity. It’s roughly a 20-minute drive, depending on speed and traffic.

Here’s the complete news release about the funeral from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office:

Funeral arrangements for the service of Deputy Michael J. Magli have been scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

Members of the public that wish to attend are reminded that parking is limited and the church capacity has been reduced to follow CDC guidelines. Masks will be required inside of the church and doors will open to the public at 10:00 a.m.

Immediately following the service, guests will be directed outside the church for a special ceremony which will include a 21-gun salute, a riderless horse, a last call, and a fly-over.

Following funeral services, a full law enforcement procession will lead Deputy Magli to his final resting place for a private burial with family and close friends. The procession will start at the Idlewild Baptist Church and travel to the Trinity Memorial Gardens located at 12609 Memorial Drive in Trinity.

Members of the public who wish to show their support during the procession to the Trinity Memorial Gardens are encouraged to line the side of State Road 54 between the Suncoast Parkway and Community Drive no later than 12:30 p.m.

A landing page has been created with all processional and memorial video, information for funeral services, a place to leave messages for the family, and information about Deputy Magli. The website can be found at https://www.pcsoweb.com/michaelmagli.

The U.S. Honor Flag, escorted by the Florida Highway Patrol Honor Guard, will be on display at the funeral. The U.S. Honor Flag has traveled to the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, traveled aboard the last space shuttle launch in 2011, and has honored thousands of American Heroes in Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Any additional questions should be directed to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office at Pinellas_SO_PIO@pcsonet.com.

• • •

8:45 a.m. Raising giant Stars and Stripes

As they did last month for the funeral of a Hillsborough deputy, crews hoisted giant flags along the procession route for Deputy Magli. This time, the platform was fire department ladder trucks.

• • •

8:30 a.m. Flags flying at half staff

Flags were lowered by the city of St. Petersburg to honor Deputy Magli. Gov. Ron DeSantis also ordered the flag above the State Capitol and at the New Port Richey and St. Petersburg courthouses to fly at half staff on Tuesday.

Coming at the same time as DeSantis ordered flags lowered for Rush Limbaugh, the late conservative radio talk show host, the move stirred debate on social media and elsewhere about priorities.

• • •

8:00 a.m. Casket arrives at Idlewild Baptist Church

The body of Pinellas Deputy Michael Magli has arrived at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the church, one of the largest worship centers in Florida with seating for some 5,000 people. One month ago, Idlewild hosted the funeral of Hillsborough Sheriff’s Cpl. Brian LaVigne, also killed by a fleeing suspect, deputies said.

• • •

7:30 a.m. A solemn motorcade of deputies

Ahead of the funeral, Pinellas deputies with lights flashing traveled in a motorcade to Idewild Baptist Church in Lutz. Their scheduled route: from 49th Street North and Roosevelt Boulevard. The motorcade will head north along the Bayside Bridge, east on State Road 60, north on State Road 589 and onto Dale Mabry Highway to the church, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s vehicles leave Clearwater for the funeral of Deputy Michael Magli in Lutz.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s vehicles leave Clearwater for the funeral of Deputy Michael Magli in Lutz. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]