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Lying on street proves fatal to St. Petersburg man killed by hit-run driver

ST. PETERSBURG — He was smiling as he lowered himself onto the pavement, stared up at his friends on a nearby porch and spoke his last words:

"This is how you do it."

Onlookers didn't even have time to scream before a black sedan zoomed over James Roy Scallion, lying in the middle of Fourth Avenue N near Eighth Street late Wednesday. Known among friends as "Country," Scallion, 43, died at the scene.

"I told him. I said, 'Get up, you idiot,' " said Tracy Garcia, who manages the building where Scallion lived. "But he just lied down, put his arms up and . . ."

The driver never looked back, witnesses said.

Scallion was known for lying in the street. It's what he did when he drank too much. But this time wasn't like the others.

Two years ago, Scallion was taken to Bayfront Medical Center after he crawled underneath a car that was exiting a parking lot at 1200 Seventh Ave. N, according to state records. In December, he was knocked unconscious by a car on Third Street N when he dashed out in front of the vehicle, officials said.

Accident reports from both incidents described him as intoxicated.

This year, Scallion received $20,000 in a settlement after being hit by a car, Garcia said. Scallion, who spent years living on the streets, used the money to pay for two years of rent at 746 Fourth St. N.

The rest of it, he used to buy food — and his favorite: beer.

"He was a bit of a drinker," said friend John Crinan, 44. "But he was a good-hearted person."

His drinking repeatedly got him into trouble.

Scallion racked up 52 arrests and citations over the last two years, according to police records. Most were for open container violations, trespassing and being too drunk in public, said St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz.

In fact, police pulled Scallion out of the street earlier Wednesday evening, figuring he'd be fine if he went home and slept it off.

"He came home for a little while, but then he was gone again," Garcia said.

Puetz said officers did not find any reason to take Scallion into custody that night. He was drunk, Puetz said, but not disorderly. And he was close to home.

"Being drunk is not a crime," Puetz said. "Being intoxicated would only allow us to take you into custody if you're inebriated to the point of being a danger to yourself or others."

Scallion died about 10 minutes after police told him to go home.

Crinan, who witnessed the incident, believes an arrest may have saved his friend's life.

"I don't know why they let him go," Crinan said, wiping away tears as he stood Thursday staring at the spot where his friend was killed. "I don't know why they didn't take him somewhere."

Crinan had been friends with Scallion for more than six years, he said. They met when they were both homeless and quickly became friends one winter day when someone stole Crinan's shoes in Williams Park.

Scallion gave him his.

"That's the kind of person he was," Crinan said. "Everybody loved him."

Police are still searching for the driver who ran over Scallion. After studying a piece of the car that became dislodged in the crash, police released a vehicle description: black Nissan Altima from 2010 or later.

They also haven't been able to find any family. Scallion, called Country because of his Mississippi roots, is believed to have a son and ex-wife out of state.

Police are asking anyone with information to call (727) 893-7780 or the Tip Line at (727) 892-5000.

News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com and (813) 226-3386.

Lying on street proves fatal to St. Petersburg man killed by hit-run driver 04/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 11:12pm]
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