Police officers in Mississippi are mourning the loss of a police chief who fatally shot and killed himself after receiving a suspension without pay.
Police Chief Mike DeNardo of the Bay St. Louis police station shot himself in the chest Thursday. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but was unable to be saved, the New York Daily News reported. According to colleagues who witnessed the incident at the station, the shooting appeared to be intentional.
Just moments before the suicide, DeNardo had been made aware of his suspension following an investigation by the sheriff’s department for an ongoing personnel issue and was forced to hand over some of his police equipment. He then unexpectedly shot himself.
Although the department wouldn’t go into details regarding the investigation on DeNardo, Les Fillinggame, mayor of the Mississippi Gulf town, told reporters that the former police chief was “just a tremendous public servant.”
During an interview with WLOX-TV, Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker said the department received credible evidence against DeNardo, prompting an investigation, but refrained from sharing any specifics with the media.
"At this point, it would be inappropriate to talk about it," Parker said. "Our condolences go out to his family for the loss."
Following DeNardo’s death, the Bay St. Louis Council voted to turn control of the police department over to the Hancock Sherriff’s department, and Captain Wes Mayley was appointed as interim police chief.
DeNardo had served with the Bay St. Louis police department for over 12 years. He was appointed to police chief of the department in 2010. Before joining the force in Bay St. Louis, the police officer served 18 years at the St. Tammany Parish Sherrif’s Office in Louisiana, CBS News reported.
According to a study of police suicide from 2008 to 2012 published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, self-inflicted deaths by police officers are almost twice as common as the number of officers killed in the line of duty. The study found 92 percent of officers who committed suicide were male, 63 percent of whom were single. Those between the ages of 40 and 44 with 15 to 19 years of service were most at risk.
The number of police suicides fell to 126 reported deaths in 2012, from 146 deaths reported in 2008.