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Family of bicyclist killed by off-duty St. Lucie County deputy seeks answers

'Makes me really confused, because I just don't understand why he would be out here so late at night,' Sylvester Davis says
Posted at 5:33 PM, Jul 09, 2024

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The family of a bicyclist hit and killed by an off-duty St. Lucie County deputy is asking for answers just days after his death.

The agency said in a post on its Facebook page that the collision occurred around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the 23000 block of Okeechobee Road west of Fort Pierce.

The deputy, whose name has not been released, was driving an unmarked agency vehicle at the time of the crash.

Sheriff Keith Pearson said the bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tuesday, Letitia Knowles, her two sons and a family friend stood just yards from where her uncle, who she said is 65-year-old Michael Knowles, was killed.

With each passing car, the family felt a new rush of emotion.

"Confusion. This whole situation," said Letitia Knowles' son, Ronnie Hightower.

Letitia Knowles uncle Michael Knowles killed in St. Lucie County July 2024
Letitia Knowles says she was told her uncle, Michael Knowles, was killed in a crash. She found out on Facebook he was killed by an off-duty deputy.

"Sadness," said Knowles. "I lost my last bloodline."

"Confused and sad," added her other son, Sylvester Davis.

Knowles said she learned of her uncle's death when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper came to her door late Saturday, with a bag of her uncle's belongings in hand.

"He gave me the news that my uncle was fatally killed in a bicycle accident," said Knowles. "I just broke down. This is my last uncle."

Knowles said she found out after the fact through Facebook that a 37-year-old off-duty St. Lucie County deputy was the one who hit her uncle while coming home from a shift.

Sylvester Davis July 9 2024 Michael Knowles killed in Fort Pierce.png
Sylvester Davis says he doesn't understand why Michael Knowles was out at the time of the morning.

According to FHP troopers, who are now investigating the incident, Michael Knowles and the deputy were both traveling westbound in the inside lane of Okeechobee Road, when the deputy hit the 65-year-old from behind.

"Makes me really confused, because I just don't understand why he would be out here so late at night, you know, with his health conditions," Davis said.

Davis and Letitia Knowles said their uncle had to walk with a cane, and don't understand how or why he would ride his bike 20 miles away from his Fort Pierce home in the middle of the night to an area mostly surrounded by ranches and open land.

"We don't know anybody out here," Letitia Knowles said.

They also said they don't understand why their uncle would be riding his bike in the street when there is a smoothly-paved bicycle and pedestrian path right next to the four lane road.

"Those are the answers we need," Letitia Knowles said.

WPTV reaches out to FHP for answers:

Reporter Kate Hussey asked why the FHP trooper didn't tell Letitia Knowles her uncle was killed by an off-duty deputy.

An agency spokesperson did not directly answer the question but said if the family has any questions, they can contact the trooper who was in touch previously.

We also requested body and dash camera footage of the incident to piece together what exactly happened to Michael Knowles that night.

"He'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, he's a very loving person," said Davis.

"And most importantly, he loved God," said Hightower.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office offered condolences to the family in a social media post, reading in part:

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the bicyclist's family and friends as well as our deputy."

Meanwhile, Letitia Knowles and her family wait and hope for answers.

"The only thing I want is the truth," said Letitia Knowles. "We want justice, we want answers."

Pearson said on social media that the deputy involved in the incident has been placed on administrative leave amid the ongoing investigation.

FHP said a copy of the crash report should be available within 10 days.