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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 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: 268672

Reported Deaths: 5917
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
Bolivar4164110
Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
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