‘This is a dark day.’ Biloxi mourns a slain police officer with memorial tributes.

A young man sat Monday morning on a bench inside the Biloxi Police Department, waiting for the television news crews with their bank of cameras to go away.

He wanted to mourn in private, he said, for fallen Biloxi Patrol Officer Robert McKeithen. The 57-year-old law enforcement veteran was gunned down Sunday night near his patrol SUV in the parking lot at the public safety center.

The SUV slowly transformed into a makeshift memorial as one Coast resident after another added stuffed animals, flowers, plaques and other mementos. The windshield was covered by mid-afternoon.

“This is a dark day,” said Matthew Dubaz, who brought a spray of flowers from Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, where McKeithen’s body was taken Monday afternoon. Dubaz said a line of 35 law enforcement vehicles escorted the body to Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home in Biloxi.

George County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Broadus visited the memorial with his wife and two sons. He was one of many in the law enforcement community who stopped by.

“It just hits hard,” Broadus said. “It’s true what they say: ‘When it happens to one, everybody feels it.’

“It just should not have happened.”

Many residents bowed their heads in prayer as they stood at the SUV.

Cheryl Morrow of Vancleave dissolved in tears.

“It’s just a bad day,” she said. “It’s a really bad day. This is not going to be forgotten.”

“ . . . We will never forget this hero.”

A memorial service organized by local ministers will be held at at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in the parking lot near McKeithen’s vehicle.

The funeral service will be Monday at First Baptist Church Biloxi.

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