CLAYTON (AP) — A St. Louis police officer accused of accidentally killing a female colleague while playing a variation of Russian roulette pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Nathaniel Hendren, 30, had been scheduled to go to trial March 23 on charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. The seven-year sentence was the maximum for involuntary manslaughter.
He was accused of fatally shooting Katlyn Alix, 24, also a St. Louis police officer, at his home in January 2019 while he was supposed to be on duty elsewhere. Hendren’s male partner, also on duty, was at the home, too. Alix, a married military veteran, was off-duty at the time.
“The reckless behavior that took place that early morning has left an unfillable void for her grieving husband, her parents, and a host of loving family and friends,” Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement.
Hendren’s attorney, Talmage Newton IV, has called Alix’s death a “tragic accident,” but a lawsuit filed by Alix’s family claimed Hendren had forced other girlfriends to play similar games.
A probable cause statement from police, provided by Gardner’s office, offered a chilling account of the game that led to Alix’s death.
“The defendant emptied the cylinder of the revolver and then put one cartridge back into the cylinder,” the statement said. Hendren allegedly spun the cylinder, pointed the gun away and pulled the trigger.
The gun did not fire. The statement said Alix took the gun, pointed it at Hendren and pulled the trigger. Again, it didn’t fire.
Hendren “took the gun back and pointed it at the victim [and] pulled the trigger causing the gun to discharge,” the statement said. “The victim was struck in the chest.”
The other male officer told investigators he had warned Hendren and Alix not to play with guns and reminded them they were police officers. He was about to leave when he heard the fatal shot, the statement said.
The male officers drove Alix to a hospital, where she died.
Alix was a patrol officer who graduated from the St. Louis Police Academy in January 2017.
The shooting was among several embarrassing recent incidents involving St. Louis police.
In November 2018, several officers were accused of attacking a black undercover colleague, Luther Hall, when he was mistaken for a protester during a 2017 demonstration. Hall claimed he was beaten “like Rodney King,” and his injuries required several surgeries. Two officers pleaded guilty, and two others go to trial in September.
Also in 2018, Gardner placed several dozen city officers on an “exclusion list,” citing what she called credibility concerns, though declining to elaborate. Officers on the list are not permitted as primary witnesses in criminal cases.
Last year, the Philadelphia-based Plain View Project released a study that found thousands of racist and anti-Muslim social media comments from police in St. Louis and seven other jurisdictions. Forty-three of the 3,500 accounts viewed by the group were tied to current or former officers in St. Louis.
Some of the posts supported roughing up protesters or mocked foreign accents. Others displayed the Confederate flag and questioned whether Black History Month was racist.
Hendren left the police department soon after the shooting and his state peace officer license was suspended.