Robert McKeithan was just months away from his retirement before he was shot and killed outside of the Biloxi, Mississippi police station on Sunday night.
“Robert was an unbelievably fine policeman. He did a great job, took care of the citizens of Biloxi for almost 24 years,” Biloxi, Mississippi Police Chief John Miller said during a press conference Monday.
According to Miller, McKeithan was murdered in the parking lot of the Biloxi police station.
Miller characterized McKeithan as a “fine and decent man” who “served the citizens of Biloxi well.”
“He was very gentle, likable and treated people with respect and dignity and we’re gonna miss him sorely,” Miller added.
McKeithan was set to retire at the end of this year.
McKeithan Was a Medal Of Valor Recipient After His Heroics During Hurricane Katrina
According to Biloxi Police Chief John Miller, McKeithan was a Medal of Valor recipient for his service during Hurricane Katrina.
“During Katrina, Robert with four other gentlemen, four other officers was awarded the Medal of Valor for saving four special needs children,” Miller said. “That’s the kind of guy he was. It was a horrible horrible event that he had to go through, but he went through it anyway and they saved those children who undoubtedly would have perished.”
According to his Medal of Valor letter, McKeithan was one of four officers who helped save four children with special needs during Hurricane Katrina. The children were saved from a flooded residence during the tragic storm in 2005.
McKeithan was also an Air Force veteran.
McKeithan’s Killer Is Still On The Run
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said officers are working around the clock to find the assailant. Gulfport and the Harris County Sherrif’s office are working jointly on this case.
“Anytime you have this kind of deliberate and violent attack on a police officer, especially right in front of a police station, it should cause everybody great concern,” Papania said.
The suspect is described as a thin male between 5’7″ and 5’10”.
Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 cash reward for information that leads to the arrest of person or persons affiliated with the murder of McKeithan.
McKeithan Described as A Family Man
According to Miller, McKeithan leaves behind a wife, a daughter, two step-sons and a step-daughter.
“He was a wonderful family man. That’s where he spent all of his time, was with his family,” Miller said. “He was a very gentle man for a policeman.”
According to the Sun Herald, McKeithan’s shooting baffled fellow officers who worked with him.
“I can’t remember any time he had a significant use of force where he couldn’t talk someone into seeing things his way,” said Sgt. Jay Morgan who worked with and trained under McKeithan.
Fellow officers also told the Sun Herald McKeithan always knew how to keep distraught victims on track so they could gather details about an investigation. He was also known for effectively talking to suspects so they would cooperate.
McKeithan Had a Desire To Connect With People
Although he was sometimes at the bud of jokes for his age, the Sun Herald reports, McKeithan had an innate desire to connect with people.
Captain Milton Houseman, an officer who worked with McKeithan said he was sometimes on the end of “paw paw jokes.”
“He caught a lot of old man jokes,” Houseman said, “but he always had a sense of humor about him.”
Known for being off of social media and technology-averse, McKeithan knew how to deal with people in reality, always handling suspects and victims with a gentleness.
Houseman tells the Sun Herald he remembered a domestic disturbance call McKeithan received about 10 years ago. With the man possessing a knife, McKeithan was able to convince the man to put it down.
“He could usually talk people down,” Houseman said.
McKeithan, 58, was described as having a style of his own by police chief John Miller.
“He just seemed to connect with people. That is not always easy in our business, but he had a knack for connecting with folks and having them connect with him,” Miller said in a tribute letter for McKeithan.
Many Different Law Enforcement Agencies Are Involved With The Investigation
Since McKeithan was a Biloxi police officer, Chief John Miller has asked the Gulfport Police Department to take over the investigation.
According to WLOX-TV, the other law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation are, Mississippi Highway Patrol, D’Iberville Police, Pascagoula Police, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshal’s, Customs and Border Patrol, DEA, ATF, Biloxi Fire Department, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Harrison County Fire Services, Gulfport Fire Department, and the Harrison County District Attorney’s Office.
The City of Biloxi says $35,000 in rewards have been offered to help resolve the case. $20,000 from the FBI, $10,000 from the U.S. Marshals Service, and $5,000 from Crimestoppers.
Those with any information on the case can contact the Gulfport Police Department at 228-868-5959.