The death of BMX star Dave Mirra has led many to wonder if brain trauma like CTE played a role in his suicide Thursday.
Allen Thomas, mayor of Greenville, N.C., and a friend of Mirra, said Friday during a news conference that he thinks there might be a link between Mirra's death and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been tied to repeated concussions in NFL players.
Mirra was a beloved figure in the world of extreme sports, and his name headlined several BMX video games. Until the 2013 X Games in Munich, he held the record for the most medals in history with 24. Of those, 14 were gold medals.
“This is a young man, I’ll call him a young man, in his early 40s, that had a pretty rugged sports career, and he took a lot of injuries in his career,” said Thomas, who spoke to Mirra on Thursday just hours before his death. “And you have to give pause to think and wonder just as we hear about brain trauma in football and other sports and activities, whether that played a factor.
"I don’t know that that’s the case. That’s something that I hope we’re able to solve that mystery.”
Thomas said he chatted for several minutes with Mirra outside a Greenville restaurant and that the 41-year-old talked about future plans, including a campaign to help local children.
"It was just the normal Dave conversation,” Thomas said. “He had the normal energy and excitement. There was no indication. It was just a normal conversation about things he wanted to do going forward in his life. That’s why this is tough to process.”
Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman, who joined Thomas at Friday's news conference, said that all signs pointed to Mirra killing himself with his own handgun while sitting in his truck. Holtzman did say that Mirra had been struggling recently with depression but did not elaborate.
Mirra posted the following to Instagram less than a day before his death: "Fight to win! We all have a battles to fight. Never back down. Love you all. #diewithyourbootson"
Mirra's family released a statement Friday through his friend and agent Steve Astephen.
"Dave's wife and family are shocked and saddened by the loss of such a remarkable person whom they loved so deeply. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers and for respecting their privacy through this difficult time.”
Wire and Internet reports were used to compile this story.