As soon as Mayor Les Fillingame heard the news about his police chief’s death, he jumped into his car and headed to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
Chief Mike De Nardo, at the helm of the department since 2010, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday, Hancock County Chief Deputy Don Bass told the Sun Herald. De Nardo was found at the Bay St. Louis Police Department and taken by American Medical Response to Memorial.
“We’re just devastated by this very sudden, tragic event that caused us a loss of one of our beloved family of Bay St. Louis,” Fillingame said, pausing to collect himself. “I don’t know what else to say at this point. The details are still unraveling and we’re all reeling at the sheer hurt of what has happened.”
Fillingame said at 3:35 p.m. he had not yet spoken with De Nardo’s family. He said a fleet of Bay police officers and other law enforcement followed the ambulance to the hospital.
For about six years, De Nardo had sat next to Fillingame at City Council meetings and they’d worked together for eight years.
“He is very much loved and is going to be missed,” Fillingame said. “We’re still in shock over the gravity of this tragedy and we just don’t know what to feel yet.”
Former City Councilman Charles Johnson, who was at the scene after the shooting, said of De Nardo, “You could always talk to him — really approachable. He was a concerned citizen at heart.
“Didn’t see this coming.”
Just across the Bay Bridge, Pass Christian Police Chief Tim Hendricks said he and his officers are in shock over De Nardo’s death.
“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family and his police department and the community at large,” Hendricks said. “We pray that they can take this a pace that they can handle.”
Pass police officers are offering their services to the Bay St. Louis force while they mourn De Nardo’s death, whether it be augmenting a patrol or assisting in an investigation.
“We’re going to try to help in any way we can,” Hendricks said.
Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said he and De Nardo worked together and attended conferences together.
“I hate to hear this,” Miller said. “ I certainly hate to hear it.”
Sun Herald reporter Justin Vicory contributed to this story.