Court dates pushed back for suspects charged in slaying of Biloxi officer

Court dates pushed back for suspects charged in slaying of Biloxi officer
Darian Atkinson (Source: Photo Gulfport Police Dept.)

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Court dates have been pushed back for the suspect accused of slaying a Biloxi officer in 2019 and five others who admitted to helping him after the murder.

Darian Atkinson, who is accused of ambushing Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithen, will not go to trial until 2021. Five others convicted of helping him after will also not learn their fates until next year.

Officer Robert McKeithen is being remembered throughout Biloxi for his many selfless actions over the last 24 years.
Officer Robert McKeithen is being remembered throughout Biloxi for his many selfless actions over the last 24 years. (Source: Photo Biloxi Police Dept.)

Davian Atkinson, Wanya Atkinson, Joshua Kovach, Dalentez Brice, and Andre Sullivan were all set to be sentenced this month in Harrison County Circuit Court. Those court dates have now been pushed back to March 2021, said Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker on Tuesday.

All four suspects have been indicted in connection to the shooting death of Biloxi Officer Robert McKeithen. From left, Dalentez Brice, Wanya Atkinson, Joshua Kovach and Davian Atkinson.
All four suspects have been indicted in connection to the shooting death of Biloxi Officer Robert McKeithen. From left, Dalentez Brice, Wanya Atkinson, Joshua Kovach and Davian Atkinson. (Source: WLOX)

Darian Atkinson - who is charged with capital murder in McKeithen’s death - was also set to go to court this month. His trial has also been pushed back to March 2021, said Parker.

Darian Atkinson - who was 19 at the time of the murder - is accused of ambushing McKeithen in the parking lot of the Biloxi Safety Complex and shooting him multiple times.

Darian Atkinson was arrested in Wiggins the day after Biloxi officer Robert McKeithen was shot. Authorities say he was seen by an off-duty Biloxi cop, who then contacted Wiggins Police.
Darian Atkinson was arrested in Wiggins the day after Biloxi officer Robert McKeithen was shot. Authorities say he was seen by an off-duty Biloxi cop, who then contacted Wiggins Police. (Source: Photo Stone County Enterprise)

The murder suspect’s two older brothers Davian Atkinson and Wanya Atkinson, along with friends Kovach, and Brice and all pleaded guilty in May 2020 to charges related to the murder, admitting to helping Darian Atkinson after McKeithen was killed. Andre Sullivan pleaded guilty last year to similar charges.

Davian Atkinson, Wanya Atkinson, and Kovach each pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder. They are all facing up to 20 years behind bars and a $10,000 fine.

Davian told the court he gave his brother a ride to Wiggins in the early morning hours of May 6, 2019. He also admitted knowing at that time that his brother was a suspect in the murder of a police officer and that he was hoping to help him escape capture.

Brice pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution by attempting to prevent law enforcement from discovering facts related to the prime suspect’s criminal activity, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Kovach, Brice and Wanya Atkinson all told the court that prior to arriving at Atkinson’s mother’s home in the early morning hours of May 6, 2019, they had all seen photos of the suspect released to the press and on social media and recognized the suspect as Darian Atkinson. Kovach and Wanya Atkinson admitted that after arriving at the residence, they assisted Atkinson in changing clothes to conceal his identity as the suspect.

Brice, who did not actively participate in the changing of Atkinson’s clothes, admitted to lying to the police when interviewed, denying both that he knew Darian Atkinson and that he had been at the residence with Darian Atkinson on the night of Officer McKiethan’s murder.

Court documents filed in April 2020 show Atkinson’s legal team plans to use the “defense of insanity.” They’re also working to get the trial moved to another county, saying they want a chance to secure an impartial jury.

Officer Robert McKeithen was a 24-year veteran of the Biloxi Police Department.

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