He’s the 19-year-old charged with the cold-blooded murder of a Biloxi police officer this week. And now police say there was a big red flag last year.
According to NBC 15, Darian Atkinson threatened to shoot up Biloxi High School in 2018, right after the Parkland high school massacre.
The details came to light shortly after Atkinson was arrested on Monday night.
In his perp walk, you can see Atkinson smiling and laughing as he was marched into Biloxi Police Headquarters.
The teen is now being charged with capital murder in the death of Officer Robert McKeithen, a 24-year veteran of the force.
But the teen’s godfather, James Colwell, says it’s not the first time that violence entered Atkinson’s mind.
“He made the comment that ‘I think I’m going to shoot up this place, too.’ My godchild said ‘you shouldn’t say that,’ and he said ‘I think I’m going to start with you,'” explained Colwell.
Police have confirmed the statements were made in 2018 at Biloxi High School, where Atkinson was a senior.
He was suspended when it was reported to school administration.
“The only thing he received was a three-day suspension from school,” said Colwell.
Biloxi schools didn’t respond to media outlets asking about the comments, saying that federal privacy laws prevent them from making any public comment on the threat.
Their only statement was to say that when a threat is made, it is investigated and they value the safety of students and staff.
Colwell says when he heard his godchild was the murder suspect, it was chilling.
“It was somewhat not a surprise, but it was. This could have been an incident at Biloxi High,” Colwell said.
Hearing that there was such a red flag made others emotional.
“They never followed up on him and maybe if they had, it would have been beneficial to this man and his family, and our hearts go out to his family,” said one woman.
Parents of students at Biloxi High School were never made aware of Atkinson’s threats. Since the incident, the district has changed its policy.
It seems to be a common threat among acts of violence that there’s some kind of an obvious warning in advance.
Look back on the Parkland shooting, for example.
Administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where the massacre took place, were warned that Nikolas Cruz was looking at guns on a school computer and told a schoolmate that he liked “to see people in pain.”
But according to the father of the student who warned school officials, that student was told to “mind his own business”.
A witness statement released by the State Attorney’s Office last November said Cruz had told the student’s brother “he wanted to shoot up the school”.
The girlfriend of the student gave a sworn statement the night of the Feb. 14 shooting, and the boys’ father helped fill in the details.
It wasn’t the first time administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were warned that Cruz might be dangerous.
The school district had known for years that he was obsessed with guns and violence.
It went all the way back to early 2016, when a neighbor alerted the Broward Sheriff’s Office that Cruz threatened on Instagram to shoot up a school.
Police say Cruz also used the school computer to research how to make a nail bomb, and then in 2016 school officials were told he threatened to kill a classmate.
Hunter Dubois, who was a freshman at the time of the massacre, had reported to Assistant Principal Jeff Morford that he thought Cruz fit the profile of a killer after watching a video about school shootings.
According to the teen’s father, he had seen Cruz looking at guns on the computer, and heard him make “crazy statements”.
The first time they met, Cruz told the teen:
“Hi, I’m Nik, and I like to see people in pain.”
According to his father, Cruz would aim his fingers at birds in the sky pretending he was shooting them.
Apparently the teen who reported it was then told by Morford that he “should look into autism.”
Cruz was believed to have autism and was also diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“He was informed that he shouldn’t be getting into other people’s business and not to worry about him, he’s being dealt with,” Dubois told the Sun Sentinel about his son.
Once again, school officials dodged answering questions because of “privacy”.
Tracy Clark, the spokeswoman for Broward schools, said she couldn’t answer questions about the threat and what school officials did to respond to it, including whether they instituted any security precautions specifically related to the threats.
“Our office is unable to provide any information on your inquiry, as this falls under the rules protecting student information and records,” she said.
Shortly after the incident, Cruz withdrew from the school. But Dubois said his son was upset that his complaint didn’t prevent the shooting.
“He’s like, ‘How did this happen? I reported him and he still did this.’ And I tried to explain to him, ‘You did your job right. You did 100 percent what you were supposed to do. It was the school and law enforcement that failed.”