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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.

Confirmed Cases: 15229

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds99925
Lauderdale73561
Madison72023
Scott65012
Neshoba63038
Jones59825
Forrest55338
DeSoto5337
Rankin4217
Leake42112
Holmes39728
Copiah3104
Jackson30513
Attala29216
Yazoo2734
Newton2714
Leflore25831
Harrison2577
Lincoln25628
Monroe25525
Lamar2355
Oktibbeha23512
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Pike20211
Adams19615
Noxubee1856
Wayne1771
Warren1719
Washington1687
Covington1652
Bolivar16011
Jasper1574
Smith15011
Lee1496
Kemper14411
Clarke14318
Chickasaw13312
Lafayette1314
Coahoma1214
Carroll11711
Marion1159
Clay1124
Winston1121
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Yalobusha905
Hancock9011
Tate891
Grenada893
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Union835
Marshall833
Montgomery831
Sunflower813
Jefferson Davis772
Tippah7311
Panola703
Webster691
Calhoun644
Humphreys607
Amite601
Walthall550
Tunica543
Prentiss523
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Tishomingo320
Pontotoc323
Stone300
Franklin282
Tallahatchie271
Quitman260
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene121
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17359

Reported Deaths: 618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2191115
Jefferson1780102
Montgomery163238
Tuscaloosa73814
Marshall6879
Franklin5457
Lee54033
Shelby50319
Tallapoosa42364
Butler40217
Chambers35325
Walker3442
Elmore3398
Madison3274
Baldwin2839
Dallas2603
Morgan2511
Etowah24811
DeKalb2433
Lowndes23812
Coffee2291
Sumter2206
Autauga2164
Houston2094
Bullock2034
Pike1980
Colbert1782
Russell1670
Marengo1636
Lauderdale1612
Hale1598
Calhoun1543
Choctaw1518
Barbour1501
Wilcox1447
Clarke1422
Cullman1260
Randolph1257
Marion12111
St. Clair1181
Pickens1114
Dale1100
Talladega1093
Chilton1001
Limestone940
Greene944
Winston880
Covington771
Jackson772
Crenshaw763
Macon754
Henry742
Bibb721
Washington686
Blount611
Escambia573
Lawrence480
Geneva400
Conecuh391
Coosa381
Monroe372
Perry370
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar230
Fayette150
Cleburne141
Unassigned00
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