ST. PETERSBURG — A 72-year-old crossing guard for Mount Vernon Elementary School died Tuesday afternoon when he was struck and killed by an impaired driver, according to police.
St. Petersburg police said David Roundtree was setting up school zone cones shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Ninth Avenue N near 43rd Street in preparation for dismissal at the nearby school when he was struck by a Toyota Scion driving on Ninth Avenue.
The car hit a pickup truck before striking Roundtree, then struck a school zone sign and a small tree before traveling for several blocks, police said.
Roundtree was transported to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where he was pronounced dead. He had been a well-loved crossing guard at the school for three years.
"We're truly saddened as a school community that this would happen to anyone," said Rob Ovalle, principal at Mount Vernon Elementary. "We'll keep his family and his friends in our prayers. We're truly sad."
Ovalle said he didn't have the opportunity to meet Roundtree personally, but said he is appreciative of the work he and other crossing guards have provided the school in keeping students safe.
"They provide an integral part of keeping kids safe," Ovalle said.
Ovalle said the school notified parents of the incident Tuesday night. The school will have counselors on hand today for students.
St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the loss has affected many officers in the department. Roundtree was well-known in the department to officers who recall pleasant interactions with him when driving near the school.
"Many of our officers said that when they drove by, he was always smiling and waving," Fernandez said. "He was known as a friendly face."
"Here is a man who was doing his best to keep children safe," she said. "It's very sad."
The driver of the car, 21-year-old Charles Hunter Walton, was arrested on a charge of DUI manslaughter. Fernandez said a witness saw Walton driving erratically for several blocks before hitting Roundtree.
Walton was tested at the scene, but Fernandez said it isn't believed he was under the influence of alcohol. However, she said Walton appeared to be impaired by some substance, though blood test results won't be known for some time.
Walton had an 18-year-old female passenger in the car, but police said she was not facing charges. Police have not released her identity.
Fernandez said Walton had a valid driver's license and is a St. Petersburg resident. He had a previous arrest for drug possession in Key West.
Roundtree's death was felt throughout the city. Kanika Tomalin, St. Petersburg's deputy mayor, shared her condolences on Twitter, calling Roundtree's death a loss for the entire community.
"To lose anybody, but especially a crossing guard who was working to protect children, to a DUI is just a tragedy that hits us all deeply," Tomalin said. "The city has certainly paused in remembrance and respect for the life we lost today."
Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Times staff writer LaVendrick Smith at email@example.com. Follow @LaVendrickS