GULF BREEZE, Florida (WALA) - A 58-year-old Gulf Breeze man was struck and killed while riding his bike on US Hwy. 98 near Fuller Road Friday night. Police say the driver fled the scene and then crashed his car into a parked vehicle a few miles away.
It was shortly after 11:00 p.m. when Marcus Avalos pulled into his home on the corner of Bay Breeze and New Hope Drive in Gulf Breeze. He had only been home 15 minutes when he heard a crashing sound come from his driveway. He went outside to investigate.
"So I walk out here to see what the commotion was, and there's a car in the woods about 20 feet and the back end of my truck had been hit, and there's this guy walking in my yard kind of stunned," Avalos described. "I yelled at him, 'Hey what's going on?' and he ran into the woods across the street."
Avalos immediately called 911 and Santa Rosa County Deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol got there fast.
The FHP arrested 28-year-old Peter Felix Armstrong. Police say that only minutes before, he's the one whose car veered off the road, struck and killed Paul Shirley as he rode his bike on the shoulder of westbound Hwy. 98.
County deputies and dogs searched for over two hours before locating Armstrong in the woods. Armstrong was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with a death, resisting arrest and later with DUI manslaughter.
What Avalos didn't know at the time is that he knew the victim well.
"He's a friend of everybody that went into that gas station," Avalos said. "He made the best cabbage I ever had."
Shirley worked in the deli at The Convenience Store on the corner of Fuller and 98. He lived close by and rode his bike to work on a regular basis. He had just left work when he was run down.
Bryan Tran owns the store and said Shirley was a great employee.
"It's a tragedy," Tran said. "I have no words for it. I've been consumed with thoughts all week. Right now, I don't know how to move on with my stuff. I'm just here day-by-day."
Shirley has no known family in the area, so his co-workers are trying to find homes for his three cats and may have to make funeral arrangements.
Armstrong is in the Santa Rosa County Jail on $131,500 bond. He had a 28-year-old female in the car with him at the time of the accident, but no charges have been filed against her.
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