Mayor Les Fillingame assured his constituents in Bay St. Louis on Friday morning Bay Police Chief Mike De Nardo left behind a well-trained police force to protect the city.
Asked about possible reasons the chief may have taken his life, he said De Nardo had been “reeling from the death of his mother,” was in a state of personal grief and was dealing with an investigation.
Fillingame, speaking outside the police station, told the Sun Herald: “The (Hancock County) Sheriff’s Office brought forward some evidence they had gotten on a tip that alluded to something that happened outside the city that involved Mike De Nardo.”
Fillingame said he had talked with De Nardo about his being suspended for the duration of the investigation. “When I talked to Mike about the suspension, I was fully confident that Mike was going to make sense of all of that, even though some of the evidence was compelling, I think he thought he could rebut some of that and clear it up.”
He said De Nardo left his office to hand over city equipment that had been issued to him and go home.
Fillingame said, “When he left to go home (Thursday), he was a free man. There were no charges filed, no indictments placed, he simply wasn’t going to be functioning with the city.”
But what happened after that — De Nardo shooting himself outside the police station — came as a total shock, Fillingame said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as shocked in my life,” he said. “He lost his mother this weekend. He had just gotten back from New York.”
The mayor said it had been a trying trip for De Nardo, everything from dealing with the weather to having to take a bus back to Bay St. Louis.
“I knew he was reeling from some real personal issues he was dealing with in New York surrounding the death of his mother,” he said. “I know he was saddened by that.”
Fillingame said of De Nardo’s death: “What happened had nothing to do with his performance here. He was a tremendous chief with a strong legacy, even a little larger than life.
“He was a friend, a mentor, a professional.”
At 8:30 a.m. Friday, City Hall was quiet inside and out. Only one clerk appeared for a moment behind the entryway counter. She acknowledged the city staff is mourning.
“He was a friend of all of ours, for sure,” she said.