Thin Blue Line: Outpouring of support for Officer McKeithen and City of Biloxi in wake of shooting

Coast community shows love, support for fallen officer and his family

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Condolences from around the country are flooding into Biloxi after a police officer was killed Sunday night.

Officer Robert McKeithen was shot multiple times outside the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center on Porter Avenue, which is also the police department’s main headquarters. The shooting happened just after 10 p.m.; McKeithen was pronounced dead shortly after in the emergency room.

Police have captured and arrested the suspect as 19-year-old Darian Tawan Atkinson. He is being charged with capital murder.

WATCH LIVE: Biloxi police give latest update on shooting death of officer. Suspect has been caught.

Posted by WLOX-TV on Monday, May 6, 2019

Officials say Atkinson was arrested in Wiggins, MS. He can be seen smiling as he is escorted into Biloxi police headquarters. But Biloxi Police Chief John Miller says he is not bothered by his smile.

Chief Miller says there will be another charge of accessory. Police believed Atkinson was being helped while he was on the run.

As for what’s next, police will build their case against Atkinson.

“Next, we want to make sure we have a solid case. We want this guy to pay for what he’s done,” Miller said.

Atkinson was spotted by an officer, who was headed home in Wiggins. He called Wiggins police, and they made the arrest.

Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania, Biloxi Police Chief John Miller and Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson all stood at the front of a room at the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center on Porter Avenue just before 6 p.m. to give the latest updates in a news conference on the investigation into the shooting death of Officer McKeithen.

Sheriff Peterson urged for people to come forward with information about Atkinson’s whereabouts before he was captured.

“We don’t know his actions. We don’t know what he’s going to do. That’s why we’ve been asking from the very beginning for the public to give him up,” said Sheriff Peterson. “If you’re hiding him, as a family member of friend, you’re going to be charged.

Officers were certain Atkinson would be captured.

I have no doubt that we will take him into custody,” said Chief Papania. “We want it. Our community wants it, and I hope he wants it.”

Chief Papania wanted to make sure the public was aware that anyone helping Atkinson will also be charged.

“If there’s somebody or a group that is causing us not to do it (locate Atkinson). They will answer for their sins,” he reiterated.

All three men honed in on their gratitude of the community’s efforts.

This is the latest development in this investigation.

WATCH LIVE: Officers hold press conference giving updates on investigation of killed police officer.

Posted by WLOX-TV on Monday, May 6, 2019

As law enforcement continues to search for Atkinson, condolences and memorials for McKeithen are being shared. Monday morning, police encouraged the public to leave memorial items on McKeithen’s patrol car, which is parked outside Biloxi Police Department.

With flags at half-staff across Biloxi, an American flag hung between two fire trucks on Main Street -- a memorial to the officer. Another flag draped McKeithen’s casket as it was wheeled into the funeral home as officers saluted their fallen brother.

Biloxi Officer Robert McKeithen died Sunday night after being shot outside the city's police headquarters. (Photo source: Biloxi PD)
Biloxi Officer Robert McKeithen died Sunday night after being shot outside the city's police headquarters. (Photo source: Biloxi PD)

Bradford O’Keefe Funeral Homes is handling the arrangements for Officer McKeithen. Visitation will be Monday, May 13 from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Biloxi. The funeral service will be at 12:30 p.m. The burial will be at 2:30 p.m. at Biloxi National Cemetery.

Politicians, cities, businesses, schools and countless individuals flooded social media, grieving the loss of the 24-year police veteran.

Tears are prayers too, they can travel to God when we can't speak. Psalm 56:8 Love your Waffle House family! #ROBOCOP 😭😭😭😭😭🙌🙌🙌🙌

Posted by Jasmine Chaune Williams on Monday, May 6, 2019

Officer Robert McKeithen has been a regular at Waffle House for many years! I've been at Waffle House personally for...

Posted by Jasmine Chaune Williams on Monday, May 6, 2019

In the meantime, authorities are urging people to be cautious before donating money to help the fallen officer’s family. Harrison County Sheriff’s Office said at least one person has already been accused of scamming people.

So far, $35,000 in rewards has been offered in this investigation. The FBI is offering $20,000. The U.S. Marshals Service is offering $10,000 and Crime Stoppers is offering $10,000. For the latest on the search for a suspect, click HERE.

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