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Government, Politics & Issues

Former St. Louis Cop Pleads Guilty In ‘Russian Roulette’ Shooting Of Another Officer

Authorities say Nathaniel Hendren, 30, was on duty, but out of his assigned patrol area, when he shot 24-year-old Katlyn Alix in the chest during a Russian roulette-style game.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
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Updated at 1:30 p.m. with details from the guilty plea and comments from court

A former St. Louis police officer has admitted that he shot and killed a fellow officer in a Russian-roulette-style game last year.

Nathaniel Hendren, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of armed criminal action in the death of 24-year-old Katlyn Alix. The case had been set to go to trial March 23.

“This has been a tragic case,” Hendren’s lawyer, Talmage Newton, told reporters on Friday. “We’ve been reviewing hundreds of pages of police reports and dozens and dozens of witness statements. We wanted, and Nathan Hendren wanted, them to be left with the best memory of their daughter and their sister possible, and he decided to save them the grief of a trial and accept a plea of guilty.”

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement that "although there is nothing that the law can do to restore the life of Officer Alix, it can make sure that the person responsible for her senseless death is held accountable for his careless behavior."

In exchange for pleading guilty, Hendren will spend a total of seven years behind bars. Under state law, he could have faced a maximum sentence of 13 years.

Katlyn Alix's mother Aimee Wahlers (center) holds a photo of Alix as she walks out of the courtroom with friends and family on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, following Nathaniel Hendren's guilty plea.
Credit Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Katlyn Alix's mother Aimee Wahlers (center) holds a photo of Alix as she walks out of the courtroom with friends and family on Friday following Nathaniel Hendren's guilty plea.

Alix’s mother, Aimee Wahlers, said Friday was “just a sad day.”

“My daughter was the best thing that ever happened to me, and now she’s gone,” she said. “I feel alone without her.”

Alix’s husband, Anthony Meyer, left the courtroom without making any comment.

In his plea, Hendren admitted that on the night of Jan. 24, 2019, he and Alix were at his south St. Louis apartment “dry-firing” their personal handguns, or pulling the trigger when there is no ammunition in the gun. Hendren was on duty — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had previously reported that his apartment was outside of the district he should have been patrolling.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Katlyn Alix, shown here in a January 2017 photo, was killed by a fellow officer Jan. 24, 2019  in what police say was an accidental shooting.
Credit Provided | St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer Katlyn Alix, seen in this January 2017 photo, was killed Jan. 24, 2019, when Nathaniel Hendren, an on-duty officer, shot her in the chest during a Russian-roulette-style game.

Hendren then placed one bullet in his revolver, spun the cylinder, and after checking that the bullet was not in a position to be fired, pulled the trigger. 

Alix took the gun, pointed it at Hendren, and pulled the trigger. Hendren then did the same to Alix, unaware that the bullet was “live” in the chamber, according to the plea deal. Alix was struck in the chest and pronounced dead at St. Louis University Hospital.

The plea agreement makes no mention of Hendren’s patrol partner, Patrick Riordan, who remains with the department. He had told police that he had warned Hendren and Alix to stop playing with guns, and had turned to leave the apartment when he heard the shot. The agreement also does not address whether Hendren or his partner had used drugs or alcohol, a detail that became the focus of a tense dispute between Gardner’s office and the police department.

Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which licenses police officers in the state, said Hendren’s license was suspended shortly after the shooting. 

O’Connell said it is standard procedure for the department to ask an officer who has been found guilty of a serious crime to voluntarily surrender his or her license. If that cannot be achieved, he said, the department will use an administrative hearing process to revoke the license. In either case, he said, an officer would not be able to work as a police officer in the state again.

Friday’s guilty plea has no impact on a separate wrongful death lawsuit that is proceeding in federal court. A motion to dismiss that case is pending.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Lindsay Toler contributed to this report.

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