BILOXI, Mississippi — Robert McKeithen was an “unbelievably fine” police officer who planned to retire at the end of this year, the chief of police in Biloxi, Mississippi said.
But those plans were cut short Sunday night when he was gunned down in the parking lot of police headquarters.
Around 10 p.m., McKeithen was shot multiple times outside the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center, Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said during a press conference Monday morning.
First responders took the officer to a hospital emergency room, where he died shortly before midnight, CNN affiliate WLOX reports.
The killer is “still on the run and we’re going to do everything in our power to bring him to justice,” Miller said.
Police identified Darian Tawan Atkinson, 19, as the suspect during a Monday night press conference, WLOX reports. Miller said Atkinson was spotted walking down the street in Wiggins, Mississippi, and was taken into custody.
Miller said the gunman entered the police station at some point but didn’t elaborate on whether it was before or after the shooting.
The motive is still unclear. Authorities did not rule out this being a random attack.
A decorated officer and family man
McKeithen served the department for almost 24 years, Miller said.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, McKeithen and four other officers received a medal of valor for saving four special needs children “who undoubtedly would have perished” without them, Miller added.
He leaves behind a wife, a daughter, two stepsons, and a stepdaughter, Miller said. “He was a wonderful family man. That’s where he spent all of his time, with his family.”
Biloxi Mayor Andrew Gilich told WLOX police officers “will lay down their lives for you.”
He said officers report for duty knowing they “may not come back from a shift, and that’s scary. But that also tells you something about the person that does this. And of course Robert was that kind of person.”