The Slatest

The “Russian Roulette” Shooting of One St. Louis Police Officer By Another Keeps Getting More Bizarre

An officer died during  St. Louis an alleged game of Russian Roulette
An St. Louis officer died during an alleged game of Russian Roulette.
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

At about 1:00 a.m. on Jan. 24, two on-duty officers from the St. Louis Police Department rushed a third, off-duty officer named Katlyn Alix to a hospital. Alix, a 24-year-old military veteran who had worked at the department for two years, soon died from the gunshot wound in her chest.

“What’s going on is that two on-duty officers went by one of their homes,” police chief John Hayden said at a press conference a few hours later. “They were on duty. While they were at that particular home, an off-duty female officer came to that home. While they were there at that home there was, what we understand to be, an accidental discharge. The female off-duty officer was shot in the chest and she was brought to the hospital by those officers. Upon arrival shortly thereafter, she was pronounced deceased.”

The unusual nature of Alix’s death immediately attracted media attention, and subsequent developments have only heightened the scrutiny on the case. Initial reports indicated that the firearm was not a service weapon, and that the on-duty officers were miles away from the district they were supposed to be patrolling. Over the past week, the details that have emerged underscored the senselessness of the incident and raised new questions about exactly what happened that day.

A day after the shooting, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office charged 29-year-old Nathaniel Hendren with involuntary manslaughter. The office released a probable cause statement from the police department, which revealed that the three officers had congregated at Hendren’s apartment. At some point, Alix and Hendren had reportedly been playing with guns, and Hendren produced a revolver. “The defendant emptied the cylinder of the revolver and then put one cartridge back into the cylinder.”

Hendren allegedly spun the cylinder, a routine often associated with Russian Roulette, and aimed the gun away. The gun did not fire when he pulled the trigger. According to the police statement, Alix allegedly then took the gun and aimed it at Hendren. It again did not fire when she pulled the trigger. Hendren allegedly took the gun back, aimed it at Alix, and accidentally shot her in the chest. The third officer, Patrick Riordan, told investigators that he admonished Alix and Hendren for fooling around with the revolver and was about to leave when it was discharged.

Hendren was booked on Monday and held on a $50,000 cash-only bond, which was subsequently raised to $100,000. In his mugshot, his left eye and forehead appeared to be bruised. Sources familiar with the situation later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had headbutted the back window of a police vehicle while at the hospital and sustained minor injuries.

On Thursday, local outlet KMOV4 published an internal police misconduct report indicating that the three officers had been consuming alcohol on the night of the shooting. A lieutenant with the police department filed the complaint about 20 minutes after Alix’s death suggesting that Hendren and Riordan had violated an administrative regulation that dictates, “No employee shall report for duty or remain on duty with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. Moreover, no employee shall consume alcohol while on duty and/or engaged in City business.” Riordan’s attorney claims that his client only had a few sips of beer and poured the rest down the sink and that he blew a 0.0 on a breathalyzer test.

However, the breathalyzer has ignited further controversy in this case. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office sent a letter to the police department questioning why blood tests had not been performed on the two officers, which would give a more accurate reading of their level of intoxication. The letter indicated that the St. Louis University Hospital did not honor a search warrant for a blood test. The attorney’s office wrote that the fact that only urine and breathalyzer tests were performed “appears as an obstructionist tactic to prevent us from understanding the state of the officers during the commission of this alleged crime.” The police department’s public safety director, Jimmie Edwards, said in a press conference, “Our officers are not obstructionist.”

Medical examiners have performed an autopsy on Alix, but they will not release the report until the results of a toxicology test are complete. Hendren has been suspended without pay, while Riordan is on paid leave. Hayden, the police chief, told reporters that the department’s laptops are currently being upgraded so that supervisors can use GPS and radio to ensure that officers remain in their assigned patrol locations.