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Funeral honors life of Pinellas deputy killed in line of duty

Deputy Michael Hartwick died Sept. 22 in a hit-and-run on Interstate 275. Friends and family remembered him as a loving, good-natured man dedicated to his work.
Officers salute Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at his funeral at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz. Hartwick died after being struck by a front loader while directing traffic away from road work on Sept. 22.
Officers salute Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at his funeral at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz. Hartwick died after being struck by a front loader while directing traffic away from road work on Sept. 22. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
Published Oct. 3|Updated Oct. 3

Deputy Michael Hartwick loved his job as a traffic cop.

He mentored young deputies and attended traffic court, worked nights and comforted people when they lost family members on the road.

On Monday, this role was reversed as hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz to comfort Hartwick’s family after the 51-year-old deputy was killed in the line of duty last month as he directed traffic away from a construction site.

“Michael Hartwick died a hero, serving his community,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at Hartwick’s funeral, which was attended by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, hundreds of deputies and police officers, as well as family and friends.

“He wore the uniform of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office with great pride,” a colleague, Deputy Keith Amin, said at the service.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri speaks at the funeral of Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri speaks at the funeral of Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Hartwick died Sept. 22 after he was struck and killed by a construction worker driving a front-end loader on Interstate 275 near Roosevelt Boulevard. The worker fled the scene, sparking a nine-hour manhunt, Gualtieri would later tell reporters. Hartwick died on the spot. The worker was arrested on a charge of leaving the scene of crash involving death and he remained in jail on Monday.

Hartwick’s death marked only the second line-of-duty fatality in the 110-year history of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office — though both have occurred within the last two years.

About 18 months prior, Pinellas Deputy Michael Magli was hit and killed by a drunk driver. The driver pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges in September and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

At Hartwick’s funeral, friends and colleagues took to the pulpit to remember him as a hardworking and funny man devoted to his job and his community. Law enforcement officers saluted his coffin and photos were projected on the church’s screens showing scenes of Hartwick’s life.

After the ceremony, mourners were escorted outside for a 21-gun salute, a riderless horse, the playing of Taps and a flyover. Hartwick, a U.S. Navy veteran, will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Officers place Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick’s casket into a hearse at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz.
Officers place Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick’s casket into a hearse at the Idlewild Baptist Church on Monday in Lutz. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Hartwick began his career working as a detention deputy in the jail. In total, he spent 19 years at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

“At work, Mike took his job seriously,” Gualtieri said. “But he didn’t take himself too seriously. He was humble. He was compassionate, and he had a sense of humor.”

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Hartwick decorated his home with Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia, a sign that read “Pray hard. Work hard. Trust God” and another that read “#1 Dad,” Gualtieri said. The deputy raised two sons, and outside of work he was a member of a Masonic Lodge and the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group.

Gualtieri read a letter from Hartwick’s children, William and Brandon, who said they hoped to see their father in heaven one day.

“He taught us to be kind to others, always help those in need and look for the positive in every situation,” the letter read.

Pinellas Sgt. Michael Ferdon said Hartwick hoped to retire to Tennessee, where he wanted to build a house and ride his motorcycle in the mountains. Hartwick was a leader in his unit, Ferdon said.

“He was very quick to mentor the newest members of my squad,” Ferdon said.

Officers line up outside during the funeral of Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
Officers line up outside during the funeral of Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

Another colleague, Pinellas Deputy Matthew Christie, praised Hartwick for his work ethic, saying Hartwick outworked most young deputies.

Hartwick had a tough exterior, said Jeff Snyder, a friend of Hartwick’s at Masonic Lodge 252. But if you got to know him better, you’d see all the love Hartwick had for those in his life, Snyder said. Snyder recalled how the two of them recently went to see “Top Gun: Maverick” and both began to tear up.

“On the way home, we commiserated, understanding that life is hard. Life is uncertain,” Snyder said.

The two bonded over a Bible verse, Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

Ted Grillo, of the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group, said Hartwick was elected road captain at a meeting he didn’t attend, but he still took on the role with enthusiasm.

“Truly, Mike didn’t have an indoor voice,” Grillo said. He concluded with a biker’s prayer, similar to that of the well-loved Irish Blessing.

The church’s pastor, Ken Whitten, compared Hartwick to Barnabas, a Biblical character who Whitten said lit up any room he entered.

Whitten shared reflections from different deputies, including one who recalled how Hartwick dug through the trash to retrieve another deputy’s credit card that had accidentally been thrown away.

“He lived out his faith. He was a giver,” Whitten said. “Mike walked his walk, he talked his talk.”

Officers escort Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick out of the Idlewild Baptist Church parking lot on Monday in Lutz.
Officers escort Pinellas Deputy Michael Hartwick out of the Idlewild Baptist Church parking lot on Monday in Lutz. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
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