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Hit and run on Natural Bridge and Farrar

A car advertising Jerrel Dean Nixon's rose business parked near where Nixon was fatally struck in a hit-and-run at the intersection of Natural Bridge Avenue and Farrar Street on Monday, May 18, 2015. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, cfletes-boutte@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • The driver who struck Jerrel Nixon, better known as St. Louis’ “Rose Man,” was drunk and speeding last May when he hit Nixon in a crosswalk and left the scene, police say.

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office charged Antonio Cooper, of the 4500 block of Margaretta Avenue, with first-degree involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday. He is being held in lieu of $150,000 cash-only bail.

Witnesses told police that Cooper was speeding in a 2011 Chrysler 200 and ran a red light in the 2600 block of Natural Bridge Road just before midnight May 17 when he struck Nixon, 64.

Nixon, of the 5900 block of Hamilton Terrace, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police found the vehicle about a block away near Natural Bridge and Parnell Street and arrested the driver, but the investigation continued and warrants were not issued until Wednesday.

Cooper’s blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.149 percent, according to court documents.

Using evidence found on the road and a computer program, St. Louis County police Officer Matthew Wieczorek determined Cooper was driving between 59 and 84 mph in an area where the speed limit is 35 mph, according to the court documents.

Nixon’s brother, Lee Nixon, sold roses at area nightclubs for three decades before he was fatally shot in June 2008.

The case was never solved. After his brother’s death, Jerrel Nixon and his niece Lesia Nixon began selling roses, and Jerrel Nixon adopted his brother’s moniker.

Lesia Nixon told the Post-Dispatch in May that she believes her uncle had just left a regular stop, CW’s Lounge at 2600 Natural Bridge, when he was hit.

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“It’s like I’ve lost my dad a second time,” she said in May.

She learned of Cooper’s arrest from a reporter Wednesday.

“There is an aspect of closure that gives me peace about it,” she said. “I realize wheels of justice turn slowly, but I also realized something was going to come of this.”

She added that she is continuing to sell roses at nightclubs in honor of her father and uncle and that customers are thankful.

“They’re grateful to me for carrying on his legacy,” she said of her uncle. “I’m fitting his shoes, but I could never walk in them.”

Cooper’s prior criminal record includes a marijuana distribution charge, for which he was given three years of probation in 2012, according to court documents.

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