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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.

Cases: 320292

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22299271
Hinds20782424
Harrison18455317
Rankin13933282
Jackson13740249
Madison10276225
Lee10068176
Jones8475167
Forrest7845153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6524150
Lamar636688
Lafayette6315121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4842133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4610148
Marshall4576105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc426173
Monroe4163136
Union415977
Neshoba4066180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3374111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314771
Adams308586
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292468
Prentiss284461
Leake272474
Marion271480
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232469
Winston230382
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210759
Holmes190574
Stone188833
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135547
Greene131934
Lawrence131424
Montgomery128943
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126542
Carroll122330
Webster115132
Jefferson Davis108534
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79218
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549394

Reported Deaths: 11328
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810851571
Mobile42180832
Madison35733524
Tuscaloosa26186460
Shelby25638255
Montgomery25103615
Baldwin21921314
Lee16301176
Calhoun14725329
Morgan14650286
Etowah14192364
Marshall12465230
Houston10798289
Elmore10302214
Limestone10191157
St. Clair10166251
Cullman9975201
Lauderdale9621250
DeKalb8978190
Talladega8467184
Walker7351281
Autauga7244113
Jackson6993113
Blount6957139
Colbert6418140
Coffee5650128
Dale4931116
Russell455241
Chilton4476116
Franklin432082
Covington4283123
Tallapoosa4137155
Escambia402380
Chambers3731124
Dallas3609158
Clarke353361
Marion3264107
Pike314878
Lawrence3135100
Winston283672
Bibb268664
Geneva258782
Marengo250566
Pickens237062
Barbour234460
Hale227078
Butler225071
Fayette219763
Henry194844
Randolph187744
Cherokee187545
Monroe181041
Washington170639
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156157
Cleburne153744
Lamar147237
Lowndes142154
Wilcox126830
Bullock124642
Conecuh113830
Coosa112129
Perry108826
Sumter106032
Greene93734
Choctaw62125
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Starkville
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More hot and humid conditions will be in store for our area on Friday. We will see some isolated showers and thunderstorms as the rule on Friday. All of this will be due to some bits and pieces of low pressure working their way through our area.
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