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Snake strikes deputy in chase

A deputy wades into a swamp and is bitten by a water moccasin. She will be fine; the search is still on for the suspect.

By JOSH ZIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 15, 2003

TAMPA -- As sheriff's Deputy Charlotte Raschke gave chase, the suspect turned around and fired. Undeterred, she followed him into the early morning darkness that surrounded the Shell station in eastern Hillsborough County.

As she searched for him in waist-deep muck 10 minutes later, she felt a sharp pain on her right leg.

"She said she felt like someone drove a fist through her," Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Kevin Fitzpatrick said.

A water moccasin -- possibly two -- had struck.

With the help of a helicopter's spotlight, Raschke, accompanied by her canine Cliff, managed to escape to dry land. After placing Cliff in a patrol car, the eight-year veteran collapsed before being flown to Tampa General Hospital.

Raschke is now doing fine, and authorities have named the suspect they say tried to shoot her.

The Sheriff's Office has issued an arrest warrant for 20-year-old Anthony Agostini of Seffner on one charge of attempted murder on a law enforcement officer. The warrant also includes two counts of aggravated assault for a related shooting earlier that night.

After being treated and released from the hospital about 5:30 a.m., Raschke was resting at home but in considerable pain, spokesman Lt. Harold Winsett said.

The Sheriff's Office said it appears the shooting followed an earlier confrontation between Agostini, Marissa Hanson, 20, and two others -- Jeremy Selph and Christopher Perry.

Raschke responded to a call at the Shell station at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Williams Road about 12:45 a.m., Winsett said. As she arrived, Selph and Perry pointed to a car in a nearby ditch, accusing Agostini of shooting at them.

When Raschke approached, Hanson got out of the car. But as Raschke tried to restrain Hanson, Agostini fled, Winsett said. Agostini ignored Raschke's order to stop and jumped a barbed-wire fence. Before fleeing into the woods, however, he turned and fired at Raschke from an undetermined distance, officials said.

As other deputies secured Hanson, Raschke followed Agostini into the swampy area with her dog, Winsett said.

"They're still out there looking for him (Agostini)," Winsett said. He said once Raschke was bitten by the snake, the focus shifted to her. Agostini was charged last August with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and last June with driving with a problem driver's license, according to sheriff's records. The dispositions of those cases could not be determined late Friday.

Hanson was charged Friday with domestic violence battery.

Winsett praised Raschke's grit, saying she was set to receive a Deputy of the Quarter award in April for her role in helping catch a man accused of stabbing his girlfriend and hitting her in the head. After a two-mile pursuit through thick woods in Polk City, they found him hiding in brush, he said.

"She's a tough lady," he said.

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