St. Louis police officer killed by fellow cop died during game of Russian roulette, officials say

A St. Louis police officer has been charged in connection with the death of an off-duty colleague, who investigators allege died during a game of Russian roulette.

Nathaniel R. Hendren, 29, is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Katlyn Alix, 24, who was killed just before 1 a.m. Thursday. Police officials later that day described the shooting as an accidental incident that took place when Hendren "mishandled a gun and shot Alix in the chest."

"She always told me, 'Mom, if I die, I'm doing something I love to do,'" Alix's mother, Aimee Chadwick, told KMOV4 in St. Louis, her voice halting as she fought back tears. "So, it made me feel a little better. But this does not make me feel better."

A statement of probable cause in the case alleges that Hendren and his partner, who was not named, were on duty Thursday morning when they went to Hendren's home, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported is in the Carondelet neighborhood of the city. The neighborhood is about two miles outside the district they were supposed to be patrolling.  

Department policy requires officers to remain in their assigned district while on duty.

At some point while they were there, Alix, who was off duty, went to the house, where she and Hendren began playing with firearms and Hendren produced a revolver, the probable cause statement says. Sources told the Post-Dispatch that the revolver was not a departmental weapon.

“The defendant emptied the cylinder of the revolver and then put one cartridge back into the cylinder,” the statement reads. “He spun the cylinder and pointed it away and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire at this point.”

Alix took the gun and pointed it at Hendren and pulled the trigger, but again, the gun did not fire, the statement alleges. Alix was not so lucky when Hendren took the revolver and pointed it at her chest, authorities said.

See the probable cause statement in the tweet below.

A neighbor told the Post-Dispatch that she heard a gunshot and someone yelling.

"Oh, my God!" the voice screamed, according to the witness. "Somebody help!"

The neighbor told the newspaper she went to her window and saw a uniformed officer on a phone or police radio, giving the location of the shooting to someone. Then he sped away in a marked patrol SUV.

Hendren and his partner drove Alix to St. Louis University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the Post-Dispatch said. Sources told the newspaper that Hendren headbutted the back windshield of the SUV as it sat parked outside the hospital, shattering the glass.

He was reportedly hospitalized for minor injuries to his head. Police officials would not confirm his hospitalization or say how the window was broken, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The probable cause statement says Hendren’s partner told investigators that he warned Hendren and Alix that they were police officers and should not be playing with guns.

“He felt uncomfortable with them playing with guns and didn’t want to have any part of it and he started to leave,” the statement says. “As he left the room, but before leaving the apartment, he heard a shot. He went back into the room and saw that the victim had been shot in the chest.”

The police department released little information about the shooting Friday when the charges against Hendren were announced.

"(St. Louis Metropolitan police) Chief (John) Hayden promised Officer Alix's family that he would ensure that our Force Investigation Unit would conduct a thorough and competent investigation regarding this incident," a statement obtained by the Post-Dispatch said. "Today detectives of the Force Investigation Unit presented their initial findings to the Circuit Attorney's Office which resulted in warrants being issued for involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action."

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement that the shooting was a "devastating incident" for Alix's husband, parents, family and the community.

"Yesterday, we lost a shining star and a dedicated public servant," Gardner said Friday. "From everything I hear about this bright young woman, Katlyn represented the police department in an honorable manner, and she had a very bright future."

Gardner stressed her own commitment to justice for Alix.

"I have said this many times before; I will hold people accountable who violate Missouri law, regardless of their profession, public status or station in life," Gardner said. "Today, as much as it saddens my staff and me to file these charges, Katlyn and her family deserve accountability and justice."

St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said that the shooting weakened the department, the Post-Dispatch reported.

"This should never happen," Edwards said, according to the newspaper. "We don't expect this to happen. We expect our officers to utilize their training and be the most responsible people ever when it comes to handling firearms and unfortunately, it did not happen in this situation."

Edwards said he wanted Hendren fired as soon as possible, the newspaper said.

Alix, a U.S. Army veteran, spent six years in the military before joining the police force in June 2016. Chadwick told KMOV4 that her daughter enlisted at age 17.

"I signed for her because that's what she wanted to do," Chadwick said.

Following her military service, Alix shifted that dedication to her job as a police officer, her mother said.

“Even on her days off, she would go visit her friends down there because, like, I guess when you’re a police officer, (you have) that close bond with everyone,” Chadwick said.

She graduated from the academy in January 2017, the Post-Dispatch reported.

"Officer Alix was an enthusiastic and energetic young woman with a bright future ahead of her," Hayden, the police chief, said in a statement.

She had previously served in the city’s Sixth District and, like Hendren and his partner, was assigned to the Second District at the time of her death. She and the two male officers were described as close friends who were often partnered while on duty.

Hendren, a former U.S. Marine, has been on the force for about a year, the Post-Dispatch reported. His partner, also 29, has been an officer for about two years.

Callahan Hereford, a former partner of Alix's in the Sixth District, set up a GoFundMe page to help her family pay the up-front costs of her funeral services.

"She was a very close friend to both my wife and I and we, along with her family and a multitude of friends, are devastated," Hereford wrote on the fundraising page, which had raised more than $8,500 as of Monday morning.

"As many of you know, Katlyn was very close to all of her nieces and nephews. We have spoken with Katlyn and Tony's family, and have put together a tentative plan for all proceeds that exceed the costs of the funeral," Hereford wrote. "Any additional funds will be put towards a trust that will benefit the children Katlyn loved so much. The specific use will ultimately be the family's decision, but we have all agreed this would be something Katlyn would have wanted."

About the Author