Crime

Biloxi police officers wouldn’t rest after 1 of their own was killed. Now there’s ‘relief.’

Teen accused of killing Biloxi officer escorted into police station

Darian Atkinson, 19, is escorted by Mississippi Coast police officers after being found and arrested in Wiggins. He's accused in the shooting death of Biloxi officer Robert McKeithen on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
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Darian Atkinson, 19, is escorted by Mississippi Coast police officers after being found and arrested in Wiggins. He's accused in the shooting death of Biloxi officer Robert McKeithen on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Weary but relieved, Biloxi police officers watched in silence, arms crossed at their waists, as grinning suspect Darian Atkinson was hauled into the public safety center, where he is accused of killing one of their own a night earlier.

Atkinson, a 19-year-old Biloxian, is being held without bond in the Harrison County jail, charged with the capital murder of Biloxi police Patrolman Robert McKeithen. Atkinson’s brother Davian Atkinson, 21, has been charged with accessory after the fact.

In an extraordinary scene, Gulfport police officers wheeled their patrol car up to the front of the Biloxi public safety center and pulled Atkinson out. The crowd of residents, standing in a semicircle, applauded.

McKeithen’s patrol SUV, heaped with flowers and other memorial tributes, completed the scene. Police say the officer was standing near the SUV when he fell after being shot multiple times Sunday night.

Law enforcement officers lined the south side of the parking lot. Miller said police were going to question Atkinson and give him an opportunity to tell them what happened. The Gulfport Police Department is leading the investigation.

“We brought him in through the front parking lot,” Police Chief John Miller said in a video posted to the department’s Facebook page. “All the Biloxi policemen were lined up there. Behind them were Biloxi firemen. Behind the firemen were all the other agencies that had spent the last day looking for him.”

Miller said most of the Biloxi officers had been working anywhere from 38 to 44 hours straight. They went straight from weekend duty at the Thunderbirds air show to a manhunt that included hundreds of law enforcement officers — federal, state and local — and all the resources they could muster.

“They’re very tired,” Miller said of his officers. “It was very difficult to get anybody to go home. They all felt like they needed to stay here until there was a resolution. They’re very happy. They’re very tired but they’re very happy.”

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller is emotional as he remembers the man that Officer Robert McKeithen was before he was killed in the headquarters parking lot Sunday night. The chief said he was a family man that served his community for 24 years.

Miller also talked to McKeithen’s widow after the arrest. He was father to one daughter, two stepsons and a stepdaughter. By all accounts, the officer was devoted to his family.

“Naturally, there’s no good news that you can give Mrs. McKeithen at this point,” the chief said. “But I could tell that there was a good bit of relief for her . . . There was a bit of something that relieved her and made her feel better that this guy was off the street.”

Digital Producer Britneé Davis contributed to this report.

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