Darian Atkinson, a Biloxi teen accused in the “ambush”-style killing of a Biloxi police officer, will be back in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing in his capital murder case.
Because it’s a death-penalty case, the hearing is set in Harrison County Court, before Judge Gaston Hewes, instead of in the Justice Court courtroom at the jail.
The 19-year-old has remained jailed without bond since his arrest the evening of May 6. During previous initial court appearances, Atkinson has worn a suicide vest, though he asked a judge to be taken off of suicide watch at one point.
He’s also been assigned court-appointed attorneys. Early on, though, Atkinson told the courts he didn’t trust any of the court-appointed attorneys because they still have connections in Harrison County. But public defenders are appointed to represent offenders who cannot afford to pay for their own attorneys.
After his arrest, a GoFundMe account was set up to raise funds for Atkinson to hire his own attorney, but the account was shut down after complaints.
What to expect
Atkinson is the alleged lone gunman in the May 5 killing of 58-year-old Biloxi Police Officer Robert “Mack” McKeithen, a veteran law enforcement officer who was planning to retire in a year.
McKeithen was gunned down in the parking lot of the police station, the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center in Biloxi.
At the preliminary hearing Tuesday, more details about what authorities have learned during their investigation are expected to come out unless Atkinson decides to waive the hearing.
If he waives his right to a hearing, more details about the crime would likely remain secret pending trial unless other court documents are filed in the case that shed more light on the evidence against Atkinson.
What we know
Atkinson had a smile on his face when he first walked into the Biloxi Police Department on the evening of the attack. A short time later, he walked out.
McKeithen had just returned to the station after his tire blew out while responding to an accident on Interstate 110.
Officials have said McKeithen was in the parking lot when Atkinson came upon him from behind and started shooting.
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania has said McKeithen likely never knew what was coming.
Atkinson ran from the scene, but was captured the following evening when an off-duty Biloxi police officer spotted him walking down a road in Wiggins and called the Wiggins Police Department to respond.
After Atkinson was taken into custody, he asked for an attorney and declined to make any official statement.
Getting help from friends
Five others, including two of Atkinson’s brothers — Davian Atkinson, 21, and Wanya Atkinson, 20 — are accused of aiding the teen in his attempt to escape arrest.
All five, including three others — Andre Sullivan, 18, Joshua Michael Kovach, 21, and Dalentez Latavian Brice, 20 — were each arrested on charges of accessory after the fact to capital murder.
Preliminary hearings for the five charged as accessories is set Wednesday in the downstairs Justice Court courtroom at the Harrison County jail.
Since McKeithen’s killing, the public has turned out to show their support for the family of the fallen officer through fundraisers and other events.