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Skateboarder run down in Wicker Park by hit-and-run driver dies

Friends gather during memorial gathering for skateboarder Reginald “Reggie” Dest1700 block N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago Ill. Saturday October 27 2012.

Friends gather during a memorial gathering for skateboarder Reginald “Reggie” Destin on the 1700 block of N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago, Ill., on Saturday, October 27, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:51AM

Skateboarder Reginald “Reggie” Destin called himself the “elder skatesman” and even labeled his Rogers Park mailbox with that moniker, his friends said.

It was while on his skateboard that Destin, 42, was struck by an allegedly drunken driver who fled the scene after the accident. Destin had been hospitalized at Stroger Hospital, but died Saturday, more than a week after he was hit, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office and his family.

On Saturday, just hours after Destin’s death, dozens of people — most of them skateboarders and many of them in tears — gathered at Uprise, a skateboard shop near the scene of the accident. The group of about 50 walked somberly to the 1700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue and placed a white skateboard — similar to a “ghost bike” left as a memorial to a slain bicyclist — at the site where Destin was hit. Flowers, pictures and other mementos were left at the memorial.

On the day before Destin died, skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk took to Twitter to ask his 3.2 million followers to donate to a fund for Destin.

“Reggie Destin, a great advocate of skateboarding & pillar of Chicago, was hit by a drunk driver & needs our help,” Hawk Tweeted.

Destin, who many said was considered an ambassador for the tight-knit Chicago skate scene, brought dozens of people together throughout the years, his friends said.

“If we were a quilt, he was the needle and thread that sewed us all together,” said friend Christopher Pitzen, 36, who added, “The general consensus is that we have lost a brother.”

Destin, who is of Haitian descent, was born in the Bronx and raised there and in Omaha, Neb., said his mother, Marcelle Destin-Raff, of Naples, Fla. He came to Chicago as a young adult and immediately became immersed in the skateboarding scene, his friends and mother said.

Destin began skateboarding while a middle-schooler in Omaha and fell in love with the sport, said his mother “I think he felt a sense of power on the skateboard.”

Destin was able to translate his love of skateboarding into a successful career, his friends and family said.

In the late 1990s Destin owned his own skateboarding shop called Push near State and Chicago, Pitzen said.

More recently, Destin had been working as a representative for various skate companies and that led him to travel extensively, his mother said.

Last year he and his business partner shut down their own skate brand, Affiliate Skateboards, which they ran together for four years, said the business partner, Vincenzo Marrocco, 33.

“He was passionate … self-made [and] always working on something,” said friend Nolan Farrell, 33.

Though Destin didn’t have kids of his own, his friend’s children called him “Uncle Reggie,” Pitzen said.

Friends described Destin as kind, laid back and full of life.

On Oct. 19, around 2 a.m. Destin had just left a bar and was riding his skateboard to his parked car a few blocks away.

A friend with Destin at the time told friends he saw a car swerve into Destin once and almost hit him. When the companion looked back a second time, Destin was hit “dead on,” professional skateboarder Johnny Fonseca, 39, said last week. Destin suffered multiple fractures, including a skull fracture.

The driver kept going, but witnesses pointed him out and police officers pulled him over as he turned west on North Avenue, authorities said.

Cook County prosecutors say the alleged driver, Luis P. Pena, 30, didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance but got behind the wheel. He was charged with aggravated driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident with life threatening injuries.

Pena smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot eyes after being pulled over, but he told police he “did not have that many beers,” prosecutors said. He also allegedly refused a Breathalyzer. Tests later revealed he had a 0.188 blood-alcohol level — more than twice the .08 legal limit, prosecutors said.

It wasn’t the first time Pena was arrested for a DUI. He was convicted of aggravated DUI in 2007.

On Saturday night, Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, said prosecutors would evaluate the evidence in light of Destin’s death to potentially upgrade the charges.

Meanwhile, as Destin-Raff mourns her son, she finds some comfort because Destin lost his life doing what he loved.

“He wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she said. “That was his life.”

Contributing: James Scalzitti

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