Did Tarpon Springs police cover up a homicide? (Part II)

Reporter: Robin Guessa 28 Investigates report 2/11/02


Tarpon Springs - FDLE investigators are trying to determine whether Tarpon Springs police covered up a homicide and framed it as a suicide to protect a fellow law enforcement officer. It was a state corrections officer's gun that killed 26-year-old Shawn McMillan last fall.


Now, the Tarpon Springs Police Department must explain why the lead detective failed to gather and preserve crucial evidence in the case.


Corrections guard Dan Nordmark won't talk about the lies he told police the night Shawn McMillan died.


The Department of Corrections won't explain why they lied to 28 Investigates, trying to convince us Nordmark didn't even work for them. But he does, and his personnel record with the Department of Corrections reveals at least five official reprimands for misconduct, excessive absences, inappropriate behavior with inmates and a disturbing incident involving Tarpon Springs police.


In 1999, Officer Nordmark and two other men were stopped in a car for suspicious behavior. Police found drugs and open alcohol containers in the vehicle and report being overcome by a cloud of marijuana smoke when Nordmark and his friends opened the car door. The driver was arrested. Officer Nordmark was quietly driven home by Tarpon Springs police and was never charged.


Corrections officials only reprimanded Nordmark and ordered him to undergo counseling.


He was allowed to keep his badge and his gun... Something Shawn McMillan's brother has a hard time understanding.


"Over the time he's worked there he's had a lot of screw-ups and he should have been let go a long time ago. If they had done that he would not have been allowed to have that gun and Shawn would still be alive," says Danny McMillan.


Shawn was last seen alive outside the British Pub in Tarpon Springs sometime after 2 a.m. on the morning of September second.


28 Investigates has learned Officer Nordmark and his friend Bernie Dillman were seen by several terrified witnesses, handling the officer's gun and recklessly firing it in the pub's parking lot.


Those witnesses left quickly in fear and minutes later, Shawn McMillan was being driven to Helen Ellis Hospital, dying from a gunshot wound to the head.


Officer Nordmark lied about where they were that night and police never bothered to check his story.


"Why would he go to a bar while he's inebriated and pass around a loaded gun? I just don't understand," says Michaela Mahoney, Shawn's mother.


Something else Shawn's mother doesn't understand is the detective work of Tarpon Springs Police Sergeant Allen McKenzie. McKenzie failed to test Officer Nordmark and Bernie Dillman for blood-alcohol levels.


He allowed Nordmark and his sister-in-law Rita to drive home hours later in the blood-soaked car where Shawn lay dying.


And incredibly, he decided not to check the weapon for fingerprints. By the time the gun had been seized by FDLE investigators weeks later, it had been wiped clean.


When the St. Pete Times asked Detective McKenzie whether Tarpon Springs police gave special treatment to Nordmark, a fellow law enforcement officer, McKenzie claimed none of the officers at the scene knew who Officer Nordmark was.


But according to the Tarpon Springs police report written within hours of the shooting, detective McKenzie clearly knew Nordmark was a corrections officer.


"It looks like it wasn't just incompetence that allowed Dan Nordmark to walk away from this possible crime," says Mahoney.


Shawn's mother Michaela believes Tarpon Springs police are covering for a fellow law enforcement officer and may have influenced the medical examiner's decision to rule her son's death a suicide.


"I think at the very least Dan Nordmark should face manslaughter charges," says Mahoney. "His behavior was gross and flagrant."


"I want Nordmark to be held responsible. I want tarpon springs police to be held responsible and I want the corrections department to be held responsible," says Shawn's brother Danny.


The FDLE has very little evidence to investigate because of Detective McKenzie's disturbing police work that night.


Right now the case is in the hands of Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe. It's up to him to decide whether to file criminal charges.