Tyrone Stewart

Laurel police Chief Tyrone Stewart, right, and his friend “Big Willie” Smith ride in the Laurel Christmas parade. (LL-C file photo)

Department leader was 48; three will assume duties in interim

Tyrone Stewart, a Laurel native who rose through the ranks of the Laurel Police Department from patrolman to become the department’s chief, died early Monday morning, Jan. 28, 2019. He was 48.

Stewart was taken to the hospital last week and was in the intensive care unit. The City of Laurel on its Facebook page Sunday announced that Stewart was in critical condition. 

On Monday morning, the city announced Stewart’s passing.

“Everyone is in shock,” said Laurel police Capt. Tommy Cox, who handles media inquiries for the department. “We are going to carry on the best we can. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Stewart family.”

For the immediate future, the LPD will be led by Deputy Chief Billy Chandler, and Capts. Cox and Shane Valentine. The same three held down the post last year, while Stewart took a leave of absence for undisclosed health reasons.

“We will be looking for a permanent chief as soon as possible,” Mayor Johnny Magee said. “We prefer to hire from within if we have the right candidate.”

An outpouring of support followed on social media.

“The City of Laurel is mourning the sudden and unexpected passing of our dear friend Police Chief Tyrone Stewart. We ask you to pray for his family during this difficult time,” the city posted on its Facebook page.

Stewart graduated high school at Northeast Jones and was a standout football player there and at Alabama State University.

He returned home as a patrolman with the LPD and rose through the ranks. He was an investigator before being tapped by then-Mayor Melvin Mack as police chief in 2011. 

“He worked his way up from a slick-sleeved sergeant all the way to chief,” Mack said. “He knew how to deal with people, how to diffuse things. He was fair to everybody. He was a good man.”

In 2017, Magee reappointed Stewart to the top post.

His background and career served as an example to the youth of the city, Magee said.

“He always talked about growing up in the projects,” Magee said, “then going on to get his college degree and going into a career in law enforcement.”

The message young people can take from that is clear, the mayor said:

“It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you wind up. He showed that example every day.”

Stewart served alongside his brother Kim, who is on the special operati0ns team in the department. The chief was known as being accessible to anyone and everyone, giving out his cellphone number to anyone who would ask.

“If he didn’t answer (the phone), something serious was going on,” Magee said. “In most cases, he was not afraid to face adversity. He truly loved the city.”

In May, Stewart took an indefinite leave of absence from the department for what Magee called, “a serious health issue.” Less than three months later, Stewart returned to lead the department. 

“May God bless Chief Stewart’s family, both blood and blue, and hold them close in the difficult days ahead,” Lance Chancellor, a Jones County sheriff’s deputy and volunteer firefighter, wrote on Facebook. “Thanks for your service Chief - your brothers and sisters in blue have the Watch from here.”

The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police said, “Today our Association mourns the loss of one of our valued members. Chief Tyrone Stewart of Laurel passed away in the early morning hours. Please keep his family, department and city in your thoughts and prayers.”

Stewart was a frequent Facebook poster and has recently been crusading to find the whereabouts of Falisa Carter. She was last seen on Nov. 25 at her home in Hattiesburg.

“Amazing we blame everyone else for the things that happens in our community, but Laurel and Hattiesburg, I be dang (if) I retire without finding Falisa,” he wrote Jan. 9. Carter has been missing for more than three months.

Stewart is survived by his wife Trina and two children, Jasmine and Justin.

“Our hearts are saddened to hear the news Laurel Police Chief, Tyrone Stewart, has passed away. Our prayers are with his family, his Department, his many friends and the City of Laurel. He will surely be missed,” the Jones County Sheriff’s Department posted on its Facebook page.

Former Mayor Susan Vincent wrote, “I am heart broken over the loss

of our Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart. Tyrone was my son and I was his second mom. He was a new patrolman when I became mayor. He was already a leader finishing the Jackson Police Academy with the top award. I rode with him on the night shift many times. He was a proactive officer which wasn’t always popular. Some wanted him along with others fired. I stood behind them because they were making our city safer. I watched him grow to be put in leadership positions and finally as Chief of the Laurel Police Department. He was tough, diplomatic, funny and loving and was well respected in the community. My prayers are for Trina, Jasmine, Justin and his family, the officers and personnel at the Laurel Police Department. Job well done, Tyrone. May you Rest In Peace.”

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