BILOXI, Miss. – A Mississippi police officer who was shot to death on duty was "a good cop" who took pride in his job, the mayor of Biloxi said Monday at the officer's funeral.
Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich fought tears as he remembered Biloxi Patrolman Robert McKeithen (muh-KEETH-en), who was shot to death May 5 outside the Biloxi police station. McKeithen, 57, had been a police officer for nearly 24 years.
"From all accounts, Robert McKeithen was the epitome of what you would want in a police officer," Gilich said. "He loved his job. He took pride in representing the Biloxi Police Department. He was well-liked, a compassionate, caring professional who had the ability to connect with people. He was a good cop."
Hundreds of law enforcement officers joined other mourners at First Baptist Church in Biloxi. During the visitation before the funeral, McKeithen's body, dressed in his uniform, lay in an open casket, and people walked past to hug his wife and other relatives.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said during the service that he had never met McKeithen. However, he said those who knew the officer described him as "a man of honor" and "a man of integrity."
"His untimely death is a reminder that there is evil in the world," Reeves said. "But his life is a reminder that there are still men amongst us who are willing to face that evil to protect those who cannot."
McKeithen's supervisor, Lt. Thomas Goldsworthy, brought levity to the service by saying McKeithen was known for his smile and many nicknames, including "Old Man" and "Pop Pop." McKeithen enjoyed 3 a.m. coffee at Waffle House, and waitresses there personalized a coffee cup for him by writing "Robocop" on it.
Goldsworthy said that in the past couple of weeks, he and another officer went to that Waffle House, got McKeithen's coffee cup and used a permanent marker to add: "Policing since 20 B.C." Goldsworthy snapped a photo of the cup and sent it in a group text. McKeithen responded with good humor, saying, "'That's just wrong,'" Goldsworthy recalled.
"He told me he thought it was hilarious," Goldsworthy said.
McKeithen, an Air Force veteran, was buried at Biloxi National Cemetery.
Investigators have charged 19-year-old Darian Atkinson with capital murder in McKeithen's death. Atkinson's brother and three others are charged as accessories after the fact.
Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report from Jackson, Mississippi.