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Neighbors mourn man killed crossing street in wheelchair

Homeless man nicknamed 'Smiley' will be missed, neighbors say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man in a wheelchair was hit and killed by a car in Jacksonville's Brentwood neighborhood Wednesday night, authorities said.

Charles Earl Abron, 58, was struck about 9:30 p.m. while crossing North Main Street near West 25th Street, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Police said he died at the hospital.

The driver of the car is not facing charges, the Sheriff's Office said.

Police said Abron was not in a crosswalk and did not yield to the car.

People in the area told News4Jax that Abron was homeless and would sleep behind a building near where he was hit.

One woman who works at a laundromat on that corner said Abron would cross the street right around the same time every night. She said it's going to be sad not seeing him around.

"Most everyone in this area knew who Smiley was,” Regina Harris said.

Nikie Gates is one of those people. She and her three daughters brought food for Abron, nicknamed “Smiley,” every night for two weeks.

"Thank you God for providing for me. He said that every time we gave him something,” Gates said. "He was homeless. He was disabled. He had one leg. He was a very good person, though. His spirits were always good."

"He was a ladies' man,” Harris said. “He liked all women. He'd say, 'Gorgeous, beautiful.' He'd always tease and say, 'I know you're married, but I still got to say it.' He always made you laugh no matter what."

Hence his nickname. But his grin won't be seen around the area now.

“We're definitely going to miss Smiley,” Abron said. “Like I said, his smile was infectious. It would just continue on. Everyone here is going to miss him, I'm sure."

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Gates said her daughters were fortunate enough to tell Abron how they felt in a special note before he died. It read, “Love you” and “Keep smiling.”

"He took the note, and he held it near his chest, and after he took it down from his chest, he folded it up, and he put it on the inside of his pocket in his jacket, so I'm pretty sure he was hurt last night with that note still inside his pocket,” Gates said. "It's bad because I'm trying to do so much to help and it weighs heavy on my heart that I'm not able to do more. These people are out here, and they are somebody."

A brother, sister, mother, father, whoever they are, Gates wants them to know that they matter.

Gates advocates for homeless people in Northeast Florida. She is putting together an event for the homeless on May 28 at Hemming Plaza from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

She said volunteers are making care baskets with body wash, deodorant and other toiletries and will feed the homeless that show up.

But Gates need more volunteers to help. For more information on volunteering or contributing to the effort, email Gates at gatesnikie@gmail.com.

Staying safe crossing streets in wheelchairs

There have been three other crashes involving motorized wheelchairs in the last year in Northeast Florida.

A representative with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities in Florida said people on wheelchairs need to take the same precaution as pedestrians.

​Officials said it's a good idea to put reflectors on a wheelchair or even lights to make it more visible to drivers.

Picking bright-colored wheels or adding a flag on the wheelchair can also help with visibility.

A reflective safety vest could also help.

And officials said to always use crosswalks and wait for signals.