Darian Atkinson walked eight miles to the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center in Biloxi with one goal in mind — to kill a police officer, a detective said during the teen’s preliminary hearing Tuesday morning.
Atkinson, 19, was smiling as he was led into the Harrison County courthouse. During the hearing, he often looked around the courtroom, giggled and shook his head. At one point, he burped loudly as his attorney, Theressia Lyons, interviewed Gulfport police Detective Samuel Jewell.
Jewell revealed new details in the “ambush”-style May 5 killing of Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen.
Atkinson first walked into the police station dressed in dark clothing, with a red beanie cap on his head and a big smile on his face. He had followed a couple that was there to file a report on a domestic incident but they did not know him.
Atkinson followed the couple back outside when they caught up with McKeithen, a patrolman who was at the department to fix a flat tire, to discuss their complaint.
The couple had two young toddlers with them, Jewell said.
McKeithen spoke to Atkinson at one point to ask him if he had anything to do with the domestic incident.
“Leave me alone. I don’t have nothing to do with it,” he said before telling McKeithen to “leave me alone.”
Jewell said Atkinson then hung out by a tree outside the police station before he walked back, pulled out a .40-caliber Glock from his pants pocket and started shooting at McKeithen.
Atkinson, Jewell said, was within arm’s length of McKeithen when he started firing at the officer from behind.
McKeithen never saw him coming, Jewell said.
At least one of the witnesses ran back inside the police station, yelling that a man was killing a cop.
In a matter of seconds, Atkinson fired nine rounds at the veteran police officer who had planned to retire at the end of the year.
At least three of the bullets hit McKeithen’s bulletproof vest, another grazed his head, and others pierced his body. Some of the bullets missed him. He was pronounced dead from blood loss at Merit Health hospital in Biloxi a short time later.
Among those who helped identify Atkinson from video surveillance footage was his mother. She looked at photographs pulled from video inside the police department to confirm her son was the same person.
Authorities, Jewell said, recovered a .40-caliber Glock in a drainage ditch near a home where a magazine was also recovered.
After County Prosecutor Herman Cox questioned the detective, Judge Gaston Hewes determined there was enough evidence in the case to bound it over to a Harrison County grand jury for indictment.
Atkinson is being held on a charge of capital murder, a charge that carries a possible death sentence. Hewes ordered Atkinson be held without bond.
After the killing, Jewell said, Atkinson walked back to his mother’s home off Popp’s Ferry Road.
The teen allegedly got help from two of his brothers, Wanya Toquest Atkinson, 20, and Davian Atkinson, 21, and three others in an attempt to avoid arrest.
The brothers and the three others — Andre Sullivan, 18, Joshua Michael Kovach, 21, and Dalentez Latavian Brice, 20 — are each being held at the Harrison County jail on charges of accessory after the fact to capital murder.
All five are accused of helping Atkinson in his attempt to escape capture, mostly by providing clothes or a ride or a cellphone to make calls.
The five charged as accessories are set for preliminary hearings Wednesday.
Caught on camera
After the killing, Atkinson was caught on a home surveillance camera walking outside his mother’s home with others now accused of trying to help him.
The cameras captured images of Atkinson and three others charged as accessories walking around outside the home before they went out of the camera’s view.
Atkinson’s brother, Davian Atkinson, picked him up in the early-morning hours of May 6 and drove the alleged shooter to Stone County, where Davian Atkinson had a job in a lumber yard.
Davian Atkinson reportedly allowed his brother to use his cellphone to make some calls.
Darian Atkinson’s arrest came after an off-duty Biloxi police officer spotted him walking along a road in Wiggins and called local police.
Atkinson refused to give a statement to police, instead asking for an attorney.
But police, Jewell said, were able to identify Atkinson as a suspect early-on after receiving a tip about who he was from someone in the Biloxi School District, where Atkinson graduated.
In his years in high school in Biloxi, Darian Atkinson had also threatened to shoot up the school. The threat came in the aftermath of the deadly Parkland shooting.
His mother has said he moved to Texas at one point and was a different person when he returned.
Since the killing, various people have posted their support for Atkinson on his public Facebook page.
Atkinson will remain jailed without bond pending trial.