A Mississippi police chief killed himself moments after he was suspended without pay, leaving fellow officers stunned and wondering why.
Police Chief Mike DeNardo served for the BSLPD for 12 years before city Mayor Les Fillingme ordered him to step down, according to USA Today.
Officials were assisting in the collection of DeNardo’s city issued property, including weapons and keys, when the 63 year old man shot himself in the chest.
Emergency medical responders reported to the scene quickly. Witnesses reported that DeNardo was speaking as responders placed him into the ambulance, according to the Sun Herald. He was pronounced dead 15 minutes later.
“He is very much beloved and is going to be missed,” said the mayor. “We ask for everyone’s prayers. May God bless him.”
Mayor Fillingme did not comment on the reason that DeNardo had been fired, reported the Sun Herald.
Many speculate that DeNardo was relieved of his duties due to ongoing investigation of missing funds in his department.
In 2014, Mayor Fillingme and Chief DeNardo signed affidavits confirming that Bay St. Louis had $298,000 in its U.S. Department of Justice forfeitures account. The city’s financial records, however, showed that the city did not have that money, according to the Sun Herald.
The mayor, Sheriff Ricky Adams, and other government officials presently are not commenting on this claim.
“All I’ve heard is that he had a self-inflicted wound and that he died as a result of it on the way to the hospital,” said State Representative David Baria, according to USA Today.
“It would be unfair to his family to speculate on anything beyond that at this point,” he added.
Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk told the Sun Herald that the Mississippi Forensics Lab will conduct an autopsy of the former police chiefs body on Sept. 9.
On the night of DeNardo’s death, the City Council of Bay St. Louis held an emergency meeting to discuss security concerns, according to the Sun Herald.
“We’re worried about the security of Bay St. Louis after this tragic day today,” said Councilman Lonnie Falgout.
Mayor Fillingme and the council decided to appoint Bay police Captain Wes Mayley temporary Police Chief while they work to determine a more permanent ruling.
“This is a temporary situation for a period of healing for our fellow officers and employees,” said Councilman Doug Seal. “Capt. Mayley will assist the sheriff with the operation of the department to maintain continuity.”
Christopher B. Taub