By the Way

Remembering 16 years with Biloxi's longest serving cop

By ROBIN FITZGERALD

rfitzgerald@sunherald.com

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDAssistant Biloxi Police  Chief Rodney McGilvary watches as investigators work the scene of a homicide in the parking lot of Iron Works Gym on Eisenhower Road on Wednesday July 15, 2015.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDAssistant Biloxi Police Chief Rodney McGilvary watches as investigators work the scene of a homicide in the parking lot of Iron Works Gym on Eisenhower Road on Wednesday July 15, 2015. SUN HERALD

I knew it was going to be an interesting ride with Rodney McGilvary nearly 16 years ago when I showed up at the scene of a police standoff.

I'd been hired as a crime reporter at the Sun Herald a few weeks earlier, but I knew Rodney by name. He was a major, a higher rank than most police officers ever attain, with the Biloxi Police Department.

Police had received a call about a hostage situation and some homes had been evacuated.

On that hot July morning, there he was on Randall Drive in a brightly colored shirt with a Hawaiian design. It was his day off. He walked over to meet me. He briefed me on the situation, told me to stay put where I was and said he'd keep me posted.

I watched and sweated and waited. The Biloxi bomb squad set up a small robot near my end of the street. The robot quietly rolled up to the house and its camera began to show police whatever could be seen. Rodney told me the robot could get close enough to the house for its camera to show police things they may not see otherwise.

I later learned the man was holding a teenager hostage. The teen had been handcuffed to a shower head in a bathroom. Police used a neighbor's land-based phone line to negotiate with the man, who surrendered after a nine-hour standoff.

It was in July 2001, and it was my first “big” crime story for the Sun Herald. Rodney was named assistant police chief four months later when Bruce Dunagan became chief.

And it was my first of many experiences working with Rodney. Sometimes he'd return calls I'd made to the chief's office. Sometimes I'd call him as my first source of information on breaking news.

He was my first call when we heard a 60-foot section of the Popp's Ferry Bridge had collapsed in March 2009. It had been struck by a tug boat's barges. Rodney kept giving me updated information. He also lined me up an interview with the bridge tender after her rescue.

I often heard from Rodney when the Biloxi Mullet Brigade, a group of volunteers, was frying fish for a special occasion. Most often, the occasion was a fundraiser for Special Olympics or the related Law Enforcement Torch Run. He's passionate about Special Olympics and what it means to the participants.

Rodney has said he found his niche when worked as a reserve officer before he became a patrol officer in 1976.

That he did. He worked his way up the ranks and became the city's longest-serving police officer. He's retiring after 40 years.

Police Chief John Miller recently said of Rodney, “If you gave him a task, he would complete it.”

As a reporter, if I asked Rodney to check on something for me, he did. Without fail.

So I salute you, Rodney. It's been a good ride working with you. Enjoy retirement.

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