A veteran police officer who served in the Air Force and won the Medal of Valor for saving the lives of four special needs children was identified Monday morning as the uniformed cop shot to death outside a Mississippi police station Sunday by a mystery assailant, officials said.
Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said the slain officer, Robert McKeithen, served the department for 24 years and was preparing to retire at the end of 2019. McEithen, 58, was shot multiple times near his patrol car parked outside the Biloxi Police Department’s headquarters Sunday night, he added, and later died at a local hospital.
“The animal that did this is still on the run and we are going to do everything within our power to bring him to justice for Robert and his family, for the men and women of the Biloxi Police Department, and for the citizens of Biloxi,” Miller told reporters Monday just steps away from where his colleague was killed.
The identity of the shooter and the motive for the attack remain unknown – but a $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest. Miller says the suspected shooter entered the police headquarters at some point before the attack and “seemed a bit nonchalant.”
Surveillance images released by investigators from that moment depict a man between 5-7 and 5-10, wearing a red beanie cap, black shirt and navy blue shorts.
After firing several rounds at McKeithen, the suspect ran off. As of Monday morning, Miller says investigators still believe he is in the area.
“Any time you have this kind of deliberate and violent attack on a police officer, especially right in front of a police station, it should cause everyone great concern,” said Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania.
The Gulfport Police Department and Harrison County Sheriff’s Office are working jointly on the investigation and are being assisted by their counterparts at the federal, state and local levels.
Miller said McKeithen was among a group of officers awarded the Medal of Valor for saving four special needs children from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” Miller said. “It was a horrible, horrible event he had to go through but he went through it anyway. And they say those children undoubtedly would have perished.”
Miller described his colleague as “a fine and decent man, a great policeman, and he served the citizens of Biloxi well.”
“He was very gentle, likeable, he treated people with respect and dignity and we are going to miss him sorely,” Miller said.
“If you are a policeman you are going to get a few complaints,” Miller added. “Very few complaints on Robert.”
McKeithen leaves behind a wife, daughter, two stepsons and a stepdaughter.
“Anybody that recognizes this guy, we want a call from you. We would appreciate that very much,” Miller said.