Bay Police Chief Mike De Nardo was being relieved of his duties before he fatally shot himself in the chest Thursday, Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said.
Adam said two deputies were at the Bay St. Louis Police Department assisting the city in confiscating equipment and escorting De Nardo from the station.
“That’s where it kind of went bad, I guess,” Adam said.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said De Nardo was being suspended pending an investigation by an outside agency. He gave no further details on the suspension.
Adam declined to comment on whether De Nardo’s suspension was connected to an ongoing Sheriff’s Office investigation into the city’s handling of a Department of Justice forfeiture fund.
What witnesses saw
Witnesses said De Nardo had been speaking with two Hancock deputies and a commotion broke out.
The witnesses said after he shot himself, he was alert and was even speaking as he was placed in the ambulance.
He was rushed to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport about 3 p.m. Coast law enforcement officials blocked intersections along U.S. 90 for the ambulance.
Fillingame said he is “devastated” over the loss of De Nardo and was headed to the hospital to check on De Nardo’s family.
“He is very much beloved and is going to be missed,” Fillingame said. “We ask for everyone’s prayers. May God bless him.”
Bay St. Louis City Hall closed early after the news of De Nardo’s death.
De Nardo was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, said Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk.
Faulk said De Nardo died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. The coroner said an autopsy will be performed at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning at the Mississippi Forensics Lab in Pearl.
Faulk said he could not comment on any other details regarding the case.
The City Council called an emergency meeting Thursday night.
Councilman Lonnie Falgout made a brief statement at the beginning of the meeting, and the council quickly went into executive session, citing security concerns.
“We’re worried about the security of Bay St. Louis after this tragic day today,” he said.
The council voted to temporarily turn over control of the city’s police department to Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Fillingame appointed Bay police Capt. Wes Mayley as acting police chief and Mayley will assist Adam for now.
Councilman Doug Seal made the motion to turn over control.
“Due to recent events, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office will be assuming control of management and day-to-day operations of the Bay St. Louis Police Department on a temporary basis until a new chief is selected,” Seal said. “This is a temporary situation for a period of healing for our fellow officers and employees. Capt. Mayley will assist the sheriff with the operation of the department to maintain continuity.”
Falgout thanked Adam and Waveland Police Chief David Allen for their assistance.
Keeping an eye on De Nardo’s files
Officers and personnel from surrounding law enforcement agencies showed up to the meeting to mourn De Nardo and discuss the day’s sudden and shocking events.
Falgout said he had been receiving calls and messages of concern from other city officials since news of De Nardo’s death broke.
He said one important concern was the whereabouts and security of De Nardo’s files pertaining to certain investigations, as well as other general police department cases.
De Nardo was known to keep meticulous notes and records pertaining to the U.S. Department of Justice police forfeitures investigation. The city came under investigation by the DOJ and the State Auditor’s Office regarding the apparent mishandling of $300,000 in federal money.
The council, in the past, relied on De Nardo’s records when making decisions regarding that case.
What happens next
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department opened investigations at the Bay police department following the shooting.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety Communications Director Warren Strain said the MBI would be assisting the Sheriff’s Department, which will lead the investigation. MBI has sent a crime-scene unit to help process the area.
Amanda McCoy, Robin Fitzgerald, Justin Mitchell, Regina Zilbermints, Mary Perez and Justin Vicory contributed to this report.
Mike De Nardo bio
- Served 30 years in law enforcement, including 12 at the Bay St. Louis Police Department.
- Joined Bay PD in 2004. Named interim deputy chief to replace retiring Chief Tom Burleson in September 2010. Selected from a field of 13 candidates to be named chief later in 2010.
- Joined St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana in 1987 as a reserve deputy; served as deputy from 1987 to 2003. Became patrol supervisor and SWAT commander.
- Served in U.S. Marine Corps, 1969-1987.