Fatal shooting of one St. Louis officer by another while allegedly playing with gun prompts changes

In the wake of the shooting, the police chief has ordered greater supervision of officers on shift, including hourly verification of their whereabouts.
Image: St. Louis Police Officer Nathaniel Hendren leaves the Justice Center after making bail on Jan. 31, 2019.
St. Louis Police Officer Nathaniel Hendren leaves the Justice Center after making bail on Jan. 31, 2019. Hendren is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Office Katlyn Alix.Colter Peterson / The St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

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By David K. Li and Phil Helsel

The police chief of St. Louis on Thursday ordered commanders to keep closer tabs on officers in the field after an on-duty officer allegedly killed an off-duty colleague while playing with a gun.

The announcement came on the same day that the police department released an "allegation of employee misconduct report" in which it is alleged that two officers, including the one accused of firing the fatal shot on a colleague, were drinking while on duty.

St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said his department is in the process of upgrading laptop computers that officers have in the field to help their supervisors stay aware of their whereabouts.

"Supervisors and/or watch commanders will hourly verify the location of each officer working the shift, using both the radio system and available GPS technology," Hayden told reporters, in his first public comments since the arrest of Officer Nathaniel Hendren.

Hendren, 29, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the killing of Officer Katlyn Alix, 24, who was off-duty at the time, early Jan. 24.

Officer Nathaniel Hendren was charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting St. Louis Police Officer Katlyn Alix in Missouri.Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

Alix was with Hendren and another on-duty officer at the suspect's apartment in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, authorities said. Hendren and Alix were allegedly alternately pointing a revolver loaded with one round at each other and pulling the trigger, according to a probable cause statement.

During a brief pretrial hearing on Thursday, a judge increased Hendren's $50,000 cash-only bond to $100,000 which could be either cash or surety, and after the hearing someone signed for the 10 percent guarantee for his release, NBC affiliate KSDK reported. He will be under house arrest and is required to give up any weapons and his passport.

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After that hearing, Chief Hayden held his press conference to announce the new policy on officers in the field — and to angrily respond to a prosecutor's suggestion that the way tests were done on the officers by police "appears as an obstructionist tactic."

St. Louis Police Officer Katlyn Alix was killed in a shooting on Jan. 24, 2019.St. Louis Police Department

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner sent a letter to the police chief and public safety director questioning the investigation and the lack of blood draws, which she said are more exact than breath and urine tests. Gardner also criticized police for initially labeling it an accident.

"Let it be crystal clear that the accusation launched by the circuit attorney to say the least was both offensive and insulting to the force investigative unit and myself," Hayden said.

In the hours after Alix's killing, Hayden called it an "accidental discharge of a weapon.”

But on Thursday, the chief said he was merely repeating preliminary information he knew at the time.

"I later learned the circumstances surrounding the shooting were much more reckless or dangerous than I had assumed," he said.

"At no time was the sharing of my early understanding of the circumstances which resulted in Officer Alix’s death meant to imply that any conclusions had been drawn."

Also Thursday, a document released by St. Louis police says that it is alleged that Hendren and the other on-duty officer with drinking while on duty.

The allegation of employee misconduct report, dated the same day as the shooting, is against Hendren for "alleged conduct unbecoming an officer." It says that Hendren and Officer Patrick Riordan are alleged to have consumed alcoholic beverages while on-duty.

An attorney for Riordan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he "blew all zeroes" when given a breath test, and that he told investigators he had taken "a few sips of a beer" while at Hendren's home. "He poured the rest out in a kitchen sink, leaving the can by the sink, and that should be confirmed by crime scene photos," attorney James Towey told the newspaper.

A probable cause statement says the other on-duty officer with Hendren told investigators that he had said to the other two officers they shouldn't be playing with guns and had started to leave when Alix was shot. The statement doesn't identify the second on-duty officer but Riordan's lawyer told the Post-Dispatch he was there.

A spokesman for Circuit Attorney Gardner said Thursday that the prosecutor stood by her earlier criticisms of the police probe.

"It is time to focus our efforts on working together to seek the truth of this matter, so we can get justice for Katlyn Alix and the community," a statement by Gardner said.

Alix's husband and other family members were in court on Thursday. Some said they just want answers.

"This world lost a lot," the officer's father, Ron Alix, said this week. "When we lost Katie, we lost a lot."

"We're going to miss her so much. I don't — I don’t know what else I can say,” he added.

Shaquille Brewster contributed.