24-year veteran ID'd as officer killed in front of Biloxi police station

Chief Miller holds a photo of Officer Robert McKeithen during a press conference Monday morning. McKeithen was killed Sunday night when a suspect opened fire on him in the parking lot of the police station. (Source: WLOX/Gray News)
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX/Gray News) - Officer Robert McKeithen, a 24-year veteran of Biloxi Police Department, has been identified as the officer who was killed Sunday night outside the city’s public safety building.

Authorities held a news conference at 9 a.m. Monday to update the public on the shooting.

“It’s a very sad day for the City of Biloxi. A 24-year veteran for our department Robert McKeithen - and there’s no easy way to say this - was murdered last night right here in our parking lot," said Biloxi Police Chief John Miller. “Robert was an unbelievably fine policeman. He did a great job; took care of the citizens of Biloxi for almost 24 years.”

McKeithen died just after 10 p.m. after being shot multiple times outside the police headquarters, according to the chief.

“Robert was planning on retiring at the end of the year,” said Chief Miller. “He leaves behind a wife, two stepsons, and a stepdaughter. He was a wonderful family man. That’s where he spent all of his time, with his family. He was a very gentle man for a policeman, a likeable man who treated people with respect and dignity, and we’re going to miss him sorely.”

Authorities are looking for the man accused of shooting the officer outside the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center on Porter Avenue. That’s the main headquarters for the Biloxi Police Department.

According to Biloxi Police Chief John Miller, first responders rushed the officer to Merit Health. That’s where the chief was just before midnight when he received the news that the officer had died in the emergency room.

Investigators say the suspect approached McKeithen outside the building in the parking lot, opening fire and shooting the officer multiple times. McKeithen was on-duty and in uniform at the time, said the chief.

“The animal that did this is still on the run. and we’re going to do everything within our power to bring him to justice for Robert and his family and for the men and women in the police department and for the citizens of Biloxi,” said Chief Miller.

The suspect entered the police department, said Chief Miller. Authorities released surveillance photos that were captured from him entering the building.

They also released a description of the suspect, saying he is a thin man between 5′7″ and 5′10″. When he approached the officer, he was wearing a black T-shirt, navy blue shorts and a rolled up red skull beanie. He also had dark high tops with red heel caps.

Authorities are asking the public for any information that may help identify the suspect or lead to his whereabouts. During Monday’s press conference, Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers said they are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The chief did not know any details about how or why the officer confronted a suspect and gunshots were fired.

Because a Biloxi police officer lost his life in the line of duty, Chief Miller has asked the Gulfport Police Department to lead the investigation. Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania joined Chief Miller outside Biloxi Police Department Monday morning for the press conference.

“Any time you have this kind of deliberate and violent attack on a police officer, especially in front of a police station, it should cause everyone great concern,” said Chief Papania.

Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson also spoke at the news conference, pleading with the public to give any information no matter how small it may seem.

Gulfport Police also welcomed the public to leave memorial items on McKeithen’s patrol, which is parked outside Biloxi Police Department.

This overnight shooting marks the fifth fallen officer for the Biloxi Police Department. Those fallen officers include Officer Emery Wilson, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1970; Officer David Higginbotham, who died in1972; Animal Control Officer Nathan Mitchell, who was hit by a train while trying to catch a dog in March 2001; and, Lt. Michael Meaut. We don’t have any information on when Meaut was killed.

This tragedy in Biloxi happened exactly one week before the start of National Police Week, which is being marked May 13-19 this year.

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Read the original version of this article at wlox.com.