Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithen was the type of cop who acted “kind of like a friend and father figure” to the people involved in his cases.
Maj. Christopher De Back told Fox News about one incident in the coastal Mississippi city when McKeithen was called to respond to the scene of a car accident on a bridge. After the site was cleaned up and one person was transported to a local hospital, he says McKeithen visited that person to speak to them about their actions and what had happened.
“He took interest in them,” De Back said, noting McKeithen was concerned about those he came in contact with regardless of whether they were a victim or a suspect.
“Even if he arrested you,” De Back added, “he actually talked to you about your life.”
McKeithen – whom De Back also says “didn’t try to shake off any calls” during his 24 years with the Biloxi Police Department – was gunned down outside of its headquarters May 5.
The decorated officer and Air Force veteran had been planning to retire at the end of this year. But then, police say, a 19-year-old walked up to him and opened fire. Struck several times, McKeithen later died at a hospital. The suspect in his murder was caught following a frenzied manhunt, yet the motive for the attack remains unknown.
Logan Grundel, McKeithen's stepson, says the concerned cop was “living the dream” as a police officer, one “that he envisioned upon himself.”
“He always talked about retiring, but it always was one of those things like ‘one more year, one more year,’” Grundel said following McKeithen’s death in a video posted to the department’s Facebook page. “He loved his job. He really never wanted to quit.”
One of McKeithen’s career-defining moments came in 2005, when he and other officers earned the Medal of Valor for helping rescue young children from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina.
“He kept it together. He kept my kids calm and distracted,” Stacey King told the New Orleans Advocate this year about the man who came to the aid of her children. King says as the floodwaters were rising, the group of officers led the children, ages 3 to 12, to higher ground.
“God sent those four officers to us that day,” she added. “I think Heaven must have needed a police officer and they chose the best.”
Pamela McKeithen, his wife, says her husband was very “meticulous” about his day-to-day preparations for work at the Biloxi Police Department.
“Besides his family, that was his life. He loved it,” she said. “Like he took meticulous care of his uniforms… he would iron it every day, shine his boots.”
And even though the couple’s birthdays were only a day apartment – they agreed on a way to celebrate.
“We went out on my birthday and came back on his,” Pamela said.
At his funeral, Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said “the loves that he knew, the friendships that he made, the people that he helped, the lives he changed, the lives he saved, and the good times he had, those things can’t be murdered or destroyed or erased."
Miller added: “They have already happened, they have already been done and they will be a part of this world forever."