Suspect caught in killing of Mississippi officer at station

Darian Tawan Atkinson

Police on Mississippi's Gulf Coast said late Monday that they have captured a suspect in the slaying of a uniformed officer gunned down outside a Biloxi police station, concluding a tense manhunt.

Posted: May 6, 2019 10:03 PM
Updated: May 7, 2019 10:43 AM

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Police on Mississippi's Gulf Coast said late Monday that they have captured a suspect in the slaying of a uniformed officer gunned down outside a Biloxi police station, concluding a tense manhunt.

Gulfport Police spokesman Sgt. James Griffin told The Associated Press that Darian Tawan Atkinson was captured Monday evening in Wiggins, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Biloxi. Atkinson is charged with capital murder in the Sunday night shooting death of Patrolman Robert McKeithen, a 23-year veteran of the Biloxi force. McKeithen, 58, had been set to retire this year.


Robert McKeithen

Law enforcement officials speaking at news conference earlier Monday evening said they have no indication why the officer was gunned down, or whether the officer was targeted or shot at random.

"I can say that's probably the saddest thing about this case is we have no motive, we have no reason for him to do this to anybody," said Sheriff Troy Peterson of Harrison County.

Authorities have said a gunman approached McKeithen in the station's parking lot Sunday night after coming inside the station and shot the officer multiple times. Images taken from a surveillance camera inside the station showed a suspect wearing navy blue shorts, a black T-shirt, a red beanie cap and dark high-top sneakers.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said earlier Monday that the suspect, then still unidentified, "seemed a bit nonchalant" as he walked around. Miller has turned the case over to the neighboring Gulfport Police Department, saying it was better to have an outside agency investigate the death of one of Biloxi's own officers.

Griffin said investigators determined Atkinson's identity through tips and interviews during the day.

Asked if Atkinson had a criminal record, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said "there's nothing that would indicate this," later describing the shooting as "a sick and deliberate act."

Authorities withheld details of the shooting itself, but Miller has said that "with all of Robert's training, I don't know that there was anything else he could have done." Immediately after the shooting, McKeithen was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

By Monday afternoon, a reward offer for an arrest in the case rose to $35,000.

Police responded in force while pursuing leads during the day Monday, at one point searching an apartment complex with rifles drawn. Officials also threatened to file charges against anyone who might be hiding or helping the suspect.

"Yes, I feel like he's being helped," Peterson said. "By who, we don't know at this time. But we'll find out when we get him in custody."

McKeithen's relatives said Monday through Biloxi city spokesman Vincent Creel that they weren't prepared to talk. A memorial service is planned Tuesday night at Biloxi police headquarters. The officer's funeral and burial are planned for May 13.

Mississippi's governor visited the Biloxi police station on Monday, lamenting the killing.

"This was a senseless murder of a veteran police officer," Gov. Phil Bryant later wrote on Twitter. "We will find the coward who fired the shots and take him into custody."

At a news conference on Monday morning outside Biloxi's police headquarters, Miller gestured at one point toward the crime scene around McKeithen's patrol SUV. He said his officer was "murdered last night right here in our parking lot." Mourners piled floral tributes on the SUV later in the day.

McKeithen was described as an Air Force veteran with a wife, daughter, two stepsons and a stepdaughter.

Miller said he and McKeithen had handled calls together earlier in their career. Department records show McKeithen and three other officers were awarded a medal of valor for risking their lives to rescue four special needs children during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Said Miller of the slain officer, "He treated people with respect and dignity and we're going to miss him sorely."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69986

Reported Deaths: 2011
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5768121
DeSoto375331
Harrison265136
Madison248972
Jackson239145
Rankin232238
Jones194762
Forrest185857
Washington172244
Lee156342
Lauderdale143993
Neshoba130694
Lamar124115
Bolivar115636
Warren113735
Oktibbeha113639
Lowndes110240
Panola109117
Sunflower107127
Lafayette101820
Scott101720
Copiah97128
Leflore95968
Pike95137
Holmes92349
Yazoo87013
Pontotoc8579
Grenada85626
Lincoln84643
Monroe83155
Simpson82131
Leake79927
Coahoma78913
Wayne78921
Tate74630
Marshall7299
Union70017
Marion68921
Adams64226
Covington63715
Winston63516
George6038
Pearl River56740
Newton55511
Tallahatchie54711
Attala53325
Walthall51121
Chickasaw48819
Noxubee46312
Tishomingo4449
Prentiss44110
Alcorn4395
Calhoun4269
Smith41213
Claiborne40914
Hancock40915
Jasper4089
Clay40414
Itawamba39510
Tippah38814
Tunica3657
Montgomery3456
Clarke34328
Lawrence3298
Yalobusha31810
Humphreys29912
Quitman2751
Carroll26211
Greene26213
Perry2488
Webster24813
Amite2406
Jefferson Davis2406
Kemper24014
Stone2245
Wilkinson22013
Sharkey2065
Jefferson1967
Benton1541
Choctaw1384
Franklin1352
Issaquena272
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 101496

Reported Deaths: 1821
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13463261
Mobile10671216
Montgomery6955153
Madison551035
Tuscaloosa432780
Unassigned398568
Baldwin371029
Shelby336137
Marshall319938
Lee272447
Morgan242520
Etowah219034
DeKalb185214
Calhoun182819
Elmore176739
Walker154865
Houston145013
Russell13912
Limestone137813
St. Clair137520
Dallas134725
Franklin130822
Cullman123812
Colbert122518
Lauderdale120320
Autauga118822
Escambia109417
Jackson10724
Talladega106914
Tallapoosa87679
Dale85029
Chambers84838
Chilton8279
Blount8255
Clarke82110
Coffee7796
Butler77336
Covington74621
Pike7167
Marion58726
Barbour5816
Lowndes57524
Marengo56817
Bullock49211
Hale48826
Winston45711
Bibb4535
Washington44913
Perry4464
Wilcox43610
Monroe4246
Pickens41110
Randolph40311
Conecuh39410
Sumter36618
Lawrence3563
Macon34114
Crenshaw3318
Choctaw28912
Cherokee2798
Clay2775
Geneva2652
Henry2643
Greene25311
Lamar2302
Fayette2235
Cleburne1291
Coosa1053
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