An attorney for the St. Louis police officer charged in the Russian roulette death of a fellow cop last week called it a “tragic accident.”
Police say Officer Nathaniel Hendren, 29, shot Officer Katlyn Alix, 24, in his apartment early Thursday in the presence of a third officer. They say Hendren and Alix were playing Russian roulette.
Alix was shot in the chest. She was pronounced dead a short time later.
Hendren was charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. He had been hospitalized since shortly after the incident Thursday until being taken into police custody Monday afternoon, his attorney said.
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“The death of Officer (Katlyn) Alix was a tragic accident that has unalterably impacted the lives of everyone involved,” Newton said in the first public comments defending Hendren. “I urge the public, as well as members of the police department, to wait until the investigation is complete, and all of the facts have been presented, before coming to any conclusions about what they believe happened that unfortunate morning.”
Newton told USA TODAY that Hendren was injured on the morning of the shooting. He declined to provide details of the injury. A booking photo released by police showed Hendren had a bruise below his left eye.
St. Louis Police Commissioner John Hayden Jr. characterized the shooting on Thursday as an “accidental discharge of the weapon.” Police said initially that Hendren had “mishandled” the gun.
But authorities announced charges against Hendren the following day.
Blue on Blue shooting:: St. Louis cop charged in Russian roulette shooting death of fellow officer, police say
Mishandled gun: St. Louis police officer killed by colleague who ‘mishandled’ gun, authorities say
Police said Hendren emptied the cylinder of a revolver and then put one round back in.
He spun the cylinder, pointed it away and pulled the trigger, police said in a probable cause statement. But the gun did not fire.
Alix then took the gun, pointed it at Hendren and pulled the trigger, police said. Again, it did not fire.
Police said the third officer present, Hendren’s partner, told Hendren and Alix “that they shouldn’t be playing with guns and that they were police officers.”
“He felt uncomfortable with them playing with guns and didn’t want to have any part of it and started to leave,” police said in the probable cause statement.
Hendren took the gun back and pulled the trigger, police said.
As Hendren’s partner left the room, police said, he heard a shot, police said. Alix was struck in the chest.
Hayden said they used police radio to report an “officer in need of aid” and rushed Alix to St. Louis University Hospital. She was pronounced dead soon after arriving at the hospital.
Alix was off duty at the time of the shooting, police said. Hendren and his partner were on duty. All three were in Hendren’s apartment shortly before 1 a.m.
Alix entered the St. Louis Police Academy in June 2016 and was commissioned as a police officer two years ago.
She served six years in the U.S. Army Reserves, including a year deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hendren was a former Marine, according to police union spokesman Jeffrey Roorda.
She is survived by her husband, Anthony J. Meyer; parents, Ronald J. Alix, Sr. and Aimee Lyn Wahlers; and siblings, Jessica Durbin, Ronald Alix, Jr., Taylor and Logan Chadwick.
“We express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Cpl. Katlyn Alix,” said Lt. Col. Adam Jackson, an Army Reserves spokesman. “We share in the sorrow felt by her loved ones, and we must not forget the valuable contribution she made to her country and the impact she has left on our organization.”
Hendren has been suspended without pay, police spokeswoman Michelle Woodling said. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
One of several questions that remain to be answered is why Hendren and his partner were at his apartment in South St. Louis, miles from their assigned patrol area, when they were on duty.
Police won’t say whether the firearm at the center of the incident was a service weapon or what, if any, repercussions that Hendren and his partner could face for leaving their patrol area while on duty.
Woodling, the spokeswoman, said those issues were “relative to the ongoing investigation,” and declined further comment.
Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook
Follow USA TODAY national correspondent Aamer Madhani on Twitter: @AamerISmad