Surveillance video from his mother’s house shows Darian Atkinson changing out of clothes that would have identified him as the shooter in the May 5 killing of Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen, an investigator said Wednesday.
Police Det. Samuel Jewell testified at a preliminary hearing that co-defendants of Atkinson — two of his brothers and friends — were gathered around Atkinson in a semi-circle as he changed clothes in the early morning hours of May 6.
McKeithen was shot five to six times in the Biloxi Police Department parking lot. A shot to the artery killed the officer, while another bullet grazed his face and three hit his bulletproof vest. Shortly after the shooting, police released to the media still photographs of Atkinson entering the police station before he came back out and McKeithen was shot.
Jewell said that Akinson, 19, met his brothers after the shooting at his mother’s Biloxi home, where the family had surveillance cameras mounted inside and outside the residence.
At one point, a car with four occupants pulled up. Darian Atkinson got a change of clothes from the car’s trunk, Jewell said.
After the testimony, Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain found enough evidence to let a grand jury decide whether brothers Davian and Wanya Atkinson should be tried on charges of accessory after the fact to capital murder. The crime carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Two other co-defendants, Latavian Dalentez Brice, 20, and Joshua Michael Kovach, 21, waived their preliminary hearings, sending their cases directly to grand juries.
The preliminary hearing for a fifth defendant, 18-year-old Andre Anderson Sullivan Jr. of Biloxi, has been delayed until an attorney is appointed for him. He had initially said he would hire his own attorney.
Fountain denied motions to reduce the bonds of $500,000 each for the co-defendants.
Moving guns, a change of clothes
The video cameras at the home of Atkinson’s mother and stepfather captured a great deal of activity around the house after the shooting, Jewell said.
In the early-morning hours of May 6, Jewell said Davian Atkinson helped his stepfather remove guns from the house because the Atkinsons’ mother, Pamela Wilson, is a convicted felon.
A while later, Wilson called Biloxi to report a disturbance at her house. A Biloxi police officer arrived within 10 minutes and made contact with Darian Atkinson, Jewell said. The officer did not recognize the teen because he had changed clothes.
Davian Atkinson assured the officer he would leave with Darian Atkinson, so the officer allowed them to go, Jewell said.
Investigators believe Davian Atkinson dropped his brother off in Wiggins, then went to his job there. Officers picked Davian Atkinson up for questioning in the late afternoon. Darian Atkinson was arrested in Wiggins around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
‘A giant misunderstanding’
During Wednesday’s court appearances, the attorney for Joshua Michael Kovach said his client’s bond should be lowered because he did not know Darian Atkinson and had never communicated with him.
Kovach even voluntarily gave his cellphone to investigators. The attorney, Christopher Holt, said the phone showed no evidence of contact between Kovach and Darian Atkinson.
However, Holt did not want a preliminary hearing for Kovach.
“I don’t want all the facts trotted out,” Holt said, noting the media presence. “It was a giant misunderstanding why he was arrested.”
‘Respect the shooter’
Once Darian Atkinson was taken into custody, Jewell said, he didn’t want to cooperate with authorities. He didn’t want his picture taken, though it was taken anyway, and he even made off-handed remarks, such as “respect the shooter” to authorities.
But before Darian Atkinson was taken into custody, he also made other comments noted by law enforcement.
He called a girlfriend, who wanted to know why he shot the police officer. Darian Atkinson told her something to the effect of “because I’m crazy,” the girlfriend told authorities.