An ‘ambush’: New details released in killing of Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen

Manhunt for suspect in killing of Biloxi police officer began with red hat, report says

An affidavit from Harrison County sheriff's deputy outlines how 19-year-old Darian Atkinson was named a suspect in the killing of veteran Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen.
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An affidavit from Harrison County sheriff's deputy outlines how 19-year-old Darian Atkinson was named a suspect in the killing of veteran Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen.

A Biloxi teen accused in the killing of a veteran police officer snuck up from behind and shot the officer several times in the back, according criminal court records filed in the case.

Afterward, 19-year-old Darian T. Atkinson ran north through the parking lot of the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center and disappeared, according to video footage of the incident.

Atkinson, of Biloxi, has been arrested on a charge of capital murder in the killing of Biloxi Police Patrolman Robert McKeithen, 57, on Sunday night outside the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center. McKeithen was standing near his police SUV when he was shot.

Atkinson is being held without bond.

His brother, 21-year-old Davian Atkinson, was arrested on a charge of accessory after the fact to capital murder, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

According to authorities, Davian Atkinson, gave his brother a ride after the shooting and allowed Darian Atkinson to use his cellphone to make calls in order to avoid capture.

An ambush

Darian Atkinson had gone into the Biloxi police station prior to the fatal shooting and had a smile on his face as he headed back out the front door.

Police said McKeithen was ambushed and killed.

During the investigation, police received a tip from Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers identifying Atkinson as the alleged shooter.

The caller, records say, indicated Atkinson was the same man pictured in video surveillance footage and photos that police released to the media.

The footage showed Atkinson smiling as he was walking in the police station. He was wearing a red beanie hat, a dark T-shirt, dark shorts and black athletic shoes with red trim.

A positive ID

Two FBI agents caught up with a relative of Atkinson the Monday after the shooting, records say. The relative told investigators Atkinson was the same person pictured in video surveillance from the shooting.

In a subsequent interview with one of Atkinson’s relatives, records say, police learned Atkinson had stopped to visit a relative at their job the Friday before the killing.

In video footage from the relative’s place of employment, Atkinson is seen once again wearing the red beanie cap. The relative again identified Atkinson as the same person captured in video footage and photographs from the shooting scene.

In other interviews, including one with someone described as an “acquaintance” of Atkinson, police got further confirmation that Atkinson was the man pictured at the police station at the time of the killing.

Police continue to search for a man accused of shooting and killing Biloxi, Mississippi, police officer Robert McKeithen. They ask anyone who may recognize the man in this surveillance footage released May 6, 2019 to call police.

The same acquaintance said Atkinson had called him around 4:20 a.m. Monday. The witness told authorities he asked Atkinson “why he did it and he replied with an incriminating statement.”

It’s unclear what Atkinson told the friend about the shooting.

Darian Atkinson had been in trouble in the past, though he had never been convicted of any felony crime in the state.

However, in 2018, Atkinson was suspended from Biloxi High School for three days after he threatened to shoot up the school in the aftermath of the deadly Parkland shooting.