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4-County Chase Ends In Deputy's Death

4-County Chase Ends In Deputy's Death

Tampa Bay Tribune via YellowBrix

July 05, 2011

BROOKSVILLE, FL — A Hernando County sheriff’s deputy is dead after a high-speed chase through four counties early Sunday morning.

Deputy John C. Mecklenburg, 35, died after his patrol car crashed into a tree and burst into flames while he was trying to stop a driver police spotted heading the wrong way on U.S. 41 in Brooksville.

Mecklenburg, a U.S. Army veteran, had been with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office since January 2009. The Green Bay, Wis., native graduated from Springstead High School in Spring Hill and leaves behind a wife, Penny, and two children, 4-year-old Andrew and 18-month-old Jessica.

“Whatever call he was on, he wanted to right the wrong,” said Deputy Sandra Wilfong, who had worked with Mecklenburg the past two years. "He wanted to prove or disprove the situation. He wanted to make sure if there was a victim they were protected. If there was a predator, they were stopped.

“He was amazing with his people skills and his investigative skills.”

A sergeant with the sheriff’s office sustained minor injuries in a separate wreck during the chase, which started at 4:40 a.m. when Brooksville police spotted a driver heading the wrong way on U.S. 41.

Officers tried to stop Michael James Anthony, 35, of Silver Springs, but he sped off in his 1991 Honda Accord, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.


Officers chased the car, and deputies from the sheriff’s office soon joined the pursuit.

A deputy forced Anthony’s car to a stop by performing what’s known as a “precision immobilization technique,” hitting it in a way that stops it without causing significant damage to either vehicle.

Deputies moved in to arrest Anthony, but he took off, again heading south on U.S. 41.

At U.S. 41 and Ayers Road, Sgt. Brandon Ross lost control of his car, hitting a pickup and a power pole. Ross sustained minor injuries. He was treated at a local hospital and released Sunday, the sheriff’s office said.

The chase continued into Pasco County, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Just south of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Painter Place, Mecklenburg lost control of his car, veering onto the shoulder and hitting a tree. His car caught fire, which was put out by other law enforcement officers chasing Anthony.

The crash woke Carol Schaub, who lives across the street and went outside with her son to see what happened.

“It sounded like a major explosion,” she said.

“When we came out, all we seen was a bunch of metal wrapped around a tree, and the engine was on fire and a piece of the car was on fire. We couldn’t see what kind of car it was. It was that badly mangled.”

Deputes showed up immediately, followed by firefighters and an ambulance. Rescue workers kept talking to Mecklenburg and encouraging him, Schaub said.

“We knew he was alive because they kept screaming his name,” Schaub said. "(The deputies said), ‘Talk to us. Stay with us, buddy. Stay with us!’ "

Mecklenburg was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where he died at 9:21 a.m.

Anthony kept driving south on U.S. 41 through Pasco and Hillsborough counties, prompting several other drivers to report his reckless driving.

At 5:09 a.m., a state trooper found Anthony’s car sitting on the side of Fourth Street North, south of Interstate 275 in Pinellas County. It had three flat tires. As the trooper approached the car, Anthony came out from some trees near the road and surrendered.

He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center and was booked into the Pinellas County Jail Sunday night on a probation violation charge. He will face multiple charges in several counties, according to the patrol.

Anthony has served time in state prison for stealing cars and fleeing and eluding police, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

In 2008, the Punta Gorda Police Department arrested Anthony for larceny grand theft. He was convicted in 2010 and placed on three years’ probation, records show.

At a news conference Sunday, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the entire sheriff’s office was hurting over Mecklenburg’s death.

“Deputies know everyday when they put the uniform on that they may have to give their life in the pursuit of justice,” Nienhuis said.

“Deputy Mecklenburg was doing just that this morning trying to keep our citizens safe from a very reckless driver,” he said. “He gave the supreme sacrifice.”

The sheriff’s office will take care of the Mecklenburg family in its time of need, along with helping to plan funeral arrangements, Nienhuis said.

The sheriff’s office will also review its policy on high-speed chases to see if changes are needed, the sheriff said.

“Not intervening would obviously put lives at risk,” Nienhuis said. “So the deputies on the scene obviously made a decision and went with it.”


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  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50

    aussie4

    about 3 years ago

    5328 Comments

    God Bless Leo mecklenburg and his family. They are not alone, we grieve with you.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    milcop

    about 3 years ago

    762 Comments

    RIP my Brother Prayers to your family and friends

  • Photo_max50

    dcrump

    about 3 years ago

    192 Comments

    R.I.P. our law enforcement brother!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    Rest In Peace, Deputy Mecklenburg. My prayers are for your family, friends, and department as they pass thru this time of grief.

  • Erin_1_max50

    ESederquist

    about 3 years ago

    170 Comments

    Rest in Peace.

  • Picture_max50

    matts123

    about 3 years ago

    44 Comments

    rest in peace Deputy John C. Mecklenburg

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    Rest in Peace Our Brother.

  • Dhs_max50

    WACollector

    about 3 years ago

    764 Comments

    Rest In Peace, Brother.

  • Mmal6_max50

    tbailes182

    about 3 years ago

    540 Comments

    Rest in Peace Brother. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family, friends, and loved ones.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    MACK2014

    about 3 years ago

    168 Comments

    R.I.P. BROTHER

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    about 3 years ago

    10984 Comments

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. RIP Deputy Mechlenburg.

  • Flags_and_stars_max50

    djs2v

    about 3 years ago

    5628 Comments

    RIP Dep. Mecklenburg

  • Me2_max50

    bstites

    about 3 years ago

    1028 Comments

    RIP Deputy. Gone but not forgotten..

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    OlympicJoy

    about 3 years ago

    374 Comments

    Rest in peace Deputy Mecklenburg.

  • Cops4christ_max50

    SpencerStangz

    about 3 years ago

    420 Comments

    RIP brother...
    i've had some close calls rounding curves on two wheels...u never know when its your time...be prepared always

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