Biloxi, MS – Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithan was murdered in the line of duty late on Sunday night outside the Biloxi Police Department (BPD) headquarters.
The shooting occurred just after 10 p.m. on May 5 when the on-duty, uniformed officer was approached by an unidentified suspect in the parking lot of the Lopez Quave Public Safety Center on Porter Avenue, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said, according to the Clarion Ledger.
The gunman then opened fire on the officer, shooting him multiple times before he fled the scene, WLOX reported.
The officer was rushed to Merit Health where he succumbed to his wounds just before midnight.
“It’s a very sad day for the city of Biloxi,” Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said during a press conference on Monday morning. “[Officer] Robert McKeithan… was murdered last night, right here in our parking lot.”
“The animal that did this is still on the run,” Chief Miller said.
A massive manhunt is underway for the suspect, who was described as a slender male between five-feet-seven-inches and five-feet-ten-inches tall.
He was last seen wearing a red beanie, black t-shirt, dark blue shorts, and dark-colored high-top shoes with red heel caps.
Investigators believe the shooter is still in the area.
Chief Miller said that he did not have any details about the interaction between the officer and the gunman prior to the shooter opening fire, and it is unknown whether the attack was random or targeted.
“The assailant did enter the police department at one point,” Chief Miller noted, adding that the killer “seemed a bit nonchalant” about murdering the veteran officer.
The Gulfport Police Department and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office are leading the ongoing investigation.
Chief Papania said that Officer McKeithan’s murder was a “deliberate and violent attack” and that local, state, and federal law enforcement officers have been working "around the clock" to apprehend his killer.
Crimestoppers has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the gunman’s arrest.
Officer McKeithan, a 24-year veteran of the BPD, was an “unbelievably fine policeman,” Chief Miller said.
“Robert was always a very pleasant person. I don’t remember him ever having a scowl on his face,” he added. “He had a style of his own… he just seemed to connect with people.”
He was also one of five officers who received the Medal of Valor for saving four special needs children who otherwise “undoubtedly would have perished,” the chief explained.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” he said. “He was very gentle [and] likeable. He treated people with respect and dignity.”
Officer McKeithan, who was also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, planned to retire from the BPD at the end of 2019.
He leaves behind his wife, daughter, two stepsons, and a stepdaughter.
“He was a wonderful family man,” Chief Miller said. “I would ask that your prayers be with Robert and his family.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithan, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Robert McKeithan, your life mattered.