The more we learn about the assassination of Officer Robert McKeithen, the more angry we get.
New details have been released by Biloxi police about 19-year-old Darian Atkinson, who they say killed him in a calculated, premeditated fashion on May 5, 2019, right in front of the city’s police department.
In the preliminary hearing this week, Atkinson giggled, laughed, shook his head and smiled while Gulfport Detective Samuel Jewell testified as to how the situation unfolded.
According to WDAM, Detective Jewell testified that the accused gunman walked eight miles from his mother’s residence to the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center that night with the sole intent of murdering a police officer.
He arrived at the station at approximately 10 p.m. with a huge smile on his face and sat down in the lobby near two women who were each holding small children. The women wanted to file a report about a domestic violence incident and were told that an officer would arrive at the station shortly to take their complaint.
The women opted to wait outside, and Atkinson followed behind them moments later, as security footage would show.
Within five minutes, Officer McKeithen pulled into the parking lot in his patrol car and began speaking with the women outside the building.
At one point, the veteran officer asked Atkinson if he was somehow involved in the incident they were reporting, but the suspect shrugged him off.
“Leave me alone. I don’t have nothing to do with it,” he responded, according to Det. Jewell.
He then walked across the parking lot and waited near a tree.
A short while later, he walked back towards the officer and the women, drew a .40-caliber Glock from his pocket, and opened fireon Officer McKeithen from behind.
The 24-year veteran of the force, who planned to retire at the end of the year, never had the opportunity to react, the detective said.
Within mere seconds, Atkinson fired 9 rounds at point blank range, striking the officer repeatedly.
He was hit once in the head, several times in the torso and at least three rounds impacted his ballistic vest. McKeithen died of blood loss a short while later at Merit Hospital.
The women who were talking with the officer ran into the police station and alerted officers inside about what had just happened. The entire ambush was captured on the departments video surveillance system. Atkinson then ran.
According to reports, he left on food and headed back to his mother’s home. He discarded the Glock .40 and magazine in a drainage ditch somewhere between the police department and home.
The gun was later recovered and found to have been purchased several months earlier by one of Atkinson’s brothers.
Somewhere between 3 and 4 am the next morning, Atkinson’s mother called the police to report that her son was causing a disturbance at her home.
When officers arrived, his brother Davian assured them that he would make sure that Atkinson had a ride to stay elsewhere. Having changed clothes and being 8 miles away from the murder scene, officers at the residence did not initially recognize him as having been the suspect caught on video.
Approximately 5 hours later, police returned to the home after a tip they received that Atkinson was in fact the person in the photos being disseminated by the department.
Atkinson’s mother, also seeing the photographs, believed that her son was the person who had assassinated Officer McKeithen.
Investigators learned two of Atkinson’s brothers assisted him with avoiding arrest. They have been charged with accessory after the fact to capital murder, along with three other individuals.
According to police, the five co-defendants aided Atkinson by giving him rides, clothes and access to a cell phone.
At approximately 6:30 pm the same day, an off-duty Biloxi police officer spotted Atkinson in Wiggins, 40 miles northeast of where the murder occurred. The Biloxi officer contacted local law enforcement.
Atkinson was taken into custody without further incident, although he refused to provide the arresting officers his name. He was positively identified as the gunmen after Wiggins PD provided photos to Biloxi investigators.
Police led 19-year-old Darian Tawan Atkinson through the same parking lot where he had allegedly opened fire on Officer Robert McKeithen the night before.
WLOX-TV streamed Atkinson’s walk on social media.
In it, he appeared to be smiling as he passed dozens of uniformed officers on his walk from a cruiser to the front doors of the police station.
While waiting to be transferred back to Biloxi, Atkinson told local officers that they should “respect the shooter,” according to WDAM.
And apparently his hearing was not the first time he was amused by his actions that ended a life and impacted so many others.
The accused cop-killer laughed and smiled as he was being escorted into the Biloxi PD, according to WPMI.
“Oh, the police are mad at me. Murder!”
Police also confirmed that he had been suspended from Biloxi High School for 3 days in 2018. The reason: he allegedly told another student that he was thinking about ‘shooting up’ the school.
The judge determined there is enough probable cause to send the case to grand jury. Atkinson will be held in jail until the grand jury decides whether to indict him or not.
While we live under the concept of innocent until proven guilty, a guilty verdict seems likely, which leads to the following questions:
- What makes a person capable of walking 8 miles, casually waiting for an officer to be present, opening fire, then fleeing?
- Diving deeper, what makes that same person so callous, that they find the entire situation funny?
- How was this teenager not on the radar after the school suspension?
- How was an officer shot multiple times in front of the police department and the shooter was able to flee on foot and make it 8 miles?
Considering events like this, it is no wonder that officers all across our nation are on alert. People are protesting departments and cities saying that the police are too quick to react with guns drawn.
How many officers have to be assassinated or die in an ambush before people will understand that the police, who want to go home to their families after their shift, are going to take the necessary measure to ensure that they get to?
I have multiple family members that are in law enforcement. I pray for their safety daily. I do not stop there. I pray for all members of our law enforcement community. I pray for wisdom, discernment and safety. I believe they would welcome all our prayers.