Officials now suggest that Dave Mirra could have CTE
Credit: FilmMagic

In 2004, Dave Mirra was a 30-year-old pro BMX star.

He was named one of PEOPLE’s hottest bachelors – he had not yet married his wife Lauren – and boasted 12 gold medals (he now has 14).

“I like to achieve things. When I do, it’s on to the next battle or the next quest. That’s how I see life,” he said. “It’s like a series of battles and quests. Once you’re done with them, then what? I look for the next thing, every time.”

Police found Mirra dead in his truck at age 41 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday in Greenville, North Carolina. Officials say the gun belonged to Mirra.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Friday, police said that Mirra “struggled with internal demons” and Greenville mayor Allen Thomas suggested at a news conference on Friday that the athlete could have the debilitating brain disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the disease is diagnosed posthumously.

“This is a young man that had a pretty rugged sports career and took a lot of injuries in his career,” Thomas said, adding that Mirra “put his body out there” for years. “You have to give pause, and think and wonder, just as we hear about in brain trauma in football and other sports and activities, whether that played a factor. I don’t know that that’s the case.”

The mayor added that it’s “way too early” to discuss testing Mirra’s brain for the disease. The mayor spoke highly of the athlete, saying that people gravitated toward him.

In 2004, Mirra told PEOPLE that the pain and suffering of others touched his heart most.

“I do get sad. I get sad for stupid things, like reading the news about things that go on in the world,” he said.

“I don’t like hearing about pain and suffering, especially, like, kids and poor people. That makes me sad. I think I feel things deeply.”

Mira is considered an icon I the pro-BMX world, and he is described on his website as “the most decorated X Games BMX rider of all time.”

The late athlete boasts 20 medals and multiple accolades. Mirra attributed his many successes to his “competitive spirit.”

“I’m an intense guy, probably because I compete. I am really hard on myself if I don’t succeed, and I get really high on myself when I win,” he said. “I’m the one who sets the hardest expectations on myself I don’t want to be good enough. I want to be the best.”

Following his death, officials described Mirra as a “generous, loving man, who knew no strangers.” News of his suicide came as a shock to friends and family, officials said in Friday’s news conference. Authorities say Mirra killed himself in the driveway of his friend’s home. Officials said at the news conference that no altercation preceded his death. In fact, Mirra and his friends had planned to go out later in the day.

He didn’t leave a suicide note, officials said.

Along with his wife, Mirra leaves behind two daughters. Family, he said in 2004, is one of the things that brought him happiness.

“I want to be an old man who can say I have done it all,” he said. “I want to have stories to tell my grandkids about the badass stuff that I did, and I want them to know that they can do it too.”