St. Louis Police chief fires back at circuit attorney's criticism in Russian roulette killing

7 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Friday, February 01 2019 Feb 1, 2019 Friday, February 01, 2019 9:16:08 PM CST February 01, 2019 in News
By: CNN

ST. LOUIS (CNN) - St. Louis Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Hayden angrily denounced criticism of the investigation into a fatal game of Russian roulette involving two officers as "unwarranted, certainly untimely, and absolutely irresponsible."

On Tuesday, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, who is tasked with investigating the killing of 24-year-old officer Katlyn Alix, said police had used an "obstructionist tactic" during the investigation of her death. Gardner also said police had initially called the shooting an accident, which was "completely inappropriate."

But on Thursday, Hayden slammed Gardner's criticism in an angry press conference. He said the detectives assigned to the case had investigated hundreds of homicides and dozens of officer-involved shootings and that he trusted they followed the law.

The allegation that they acted inappropriately was "offensive and insulting," Hayden said. He also said he initially described the shooting as an accident before he learned that the circumstances were "more reckless and dangerous" than what was originally understood.

The news conference comes a week after officer Nathaniel Hendren, 29, fatally shot Alix at his residence on January 24. The two allegedly took turns holding a revolver containing one bullet and pulling the trigger, according to police, a description similar to the lethal game of chance known as Russian roulette.

Hendren has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the first degree and armed criminal action relating to the death of a fellow police officer. Alix was off duty at the time of last week's shooting, and Hendren was on duty, according to a probable cause statement supporting the charges.

The statement said Alix, Hendren and Hendren's partner were playing with guns when Hendren produced a revolver. Hendren emptied the bullets from the revolver and put one of the bullets back inside the gun, spun the cylinder and fired the gun pointing away from Alix, the statement said. The gun did not discharge.

Alix took the gun and pulled the trigger while pointing at Hendren, but it did not fire, the statement said. Hendren grabbed the gun back from Alix, pulled the trigger, and this time it fired, striking Alix in the chest, the document said. She was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The other on-duty officer, who has not been named, advised Alix and Hendren they shouldn't be playing with guns and left the room, according to the probable cause statement.

Hendren was taken into custody Monday, and a booking photo shows him with a black eye.

His attorney has described the shooting as an accident.

"We are aware of the rumors, innuendo, and salacious gossip surrounding the accidental death of Officer Katlyn Alix," attorney Talmage E. Newton IV said. "There is no evidence, nor will there ever be, that this was anything more than a tragic accident."

Alix had been on the force two years, the police department said. She leaves behind a husband, her parents and a sister, among other family members.

Her family has hired attorney Scott Rosenblum.

"I've been retained by the Alix family to make sure that the investigation is thorough and proper," Rosenblum said. "We will obviously explore if there are any civil remedies that they can pursue. Right now, their primary concern is making sure the investigation is thorough and proper."

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