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Ex-St. Louis officer pleads guilty to killing fellow cop in Russian roulette shooting
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Ex-St. Louis officer pleads guilty to killing fellow cop in Russian roulette shooting

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ST. LOUIS — A former St. Louis police officer will serve a seven-year prison term for killing a fellow officer last year in a Russian roulette shooting.

Nathaniel Hendren, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.

Judge Thom C. Clark accepted Hendren’s plea agreement with prosecutors to serve seven years for manslaughter and a concurrent three-year term for armed criminal action.

The range of punishment for involuntary manslaughter, a class C felony, is three to 10 years. For armed criminal action, it’s three years to life in prison.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner attended the hearing and greeted family members of Katlyn Alix, who was the married, 24-year-old officer killed by Hendren.

Officer Nathaniel Hendren

St. Louis police officer Nathaniel Hendren pleaded not guilty on April 29, 2019, to charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of fellow officer Katlyn Alix.

Hendren fatally shot Alix in January 2019 at his apartment in the 700 block of Dover Place in the city’s Carondelet neighborhood while he was supposed to be on duty. Alix was off duty. She and Hendren were frequent partners on patrol after her transfer to the city’s Second District.

The two were “dry firing” their personal guns, authorities said. Hendren removed the bullets from a revolver, then put one back in, spun the cylinder, pointed it away and pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t fire. Alix took the gun, pointed it at Hendren and pulled the trigger. Hendren took the gun back, pointed it at Alix’s chest and fired, hitting her once.

Hendren and his partner, Patrick Riordan, had skipped out on a call for an alarm at a business, instead calling another officer to check on the alarm as they hung out with Alix miles away from the business. Riordan has not been charged.

Hendren apologized to Alix’s family in court Friday.

“I don’t intend to try and explain anyone else’s hurt or make this day any more about me than it already is,” Hendren said. “I simply wish to express my sincere remorse to this court and to the family of Katlyn Alix, a wonderful woman full of tenacity and self-determination.”

He added, “These actions have no excuse and I will not attempt to look for one. The pain I feel is nothing compared to that of the family of Katlyn.”

His lawyer, Talmage Newton IV, echoed Hendren’s statements, telling the Post-Dispatch on Friday that Hendren and Alix were in a relationship and that Hendren loved her.

A statement released Friday by Gardner’s office said Hendren fired the gun believing there wasn’t a round in the active cylinder position.

“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,” Gardner said in the statement.

Several of Alix’s relatives, including her mother and siblings, read letters in court Friday describing her personality and noting her military and police service.

Alix was a U.S. Army reservist, deployed to Guantanamo Bay to work as a prison guard before entering the St. Louis police academy. Her siblings and mother spoke of their pain in losing Alix, including seeing her body in the hospital.

”I was not ready to say goodbye,” said her mother, Aimee Lyn Wahlers. “Having to deal with the loss of my daughter and how she was killed, it plays over in my head every day. Katie was my whole life. She wasn’t just my daughter, she was my best friend.”

Hendren also had a military background. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a police officer. Alix’s supporters were critical of Hendren for neglecting his firearms training.

C. Page Hereford, a Maryland Heights police officer and former Marine infantryman in Afghanistan, said he attended the academy with Alix and served with the city’s police force as her partner for two years, adding that Alix showed bravery and professionalism during their time together.

”I can say with humility that I am not as good a policeman without having her next to me,” he said.

Hendren “failed spectacularly,” he said. “Hendren is not a new policeman who handled a firearm for the first time in the academy. He is a Marine who was taught to use and handle firearms by one of the most elite and professional armed forces on the planet. He no longer deserves the title of Marine.”

Rachel Smith, a special assistant circuit attorney, said in court that when Hendren “chose to pull that trigger, he betrayed so many people — those who trained him, the military, the department and the people of St. Louis, and most importantly he betrayed Katie Alix.”

Judge Clark said that by accepting the plea deal, he had no power to modify the sentence. He said he received 19 letters from people about Alix and understands how “this tragedy has extended to such depths within the police department.”

“It’s inexplicable,” Clark said. “It most likely will never be understood and hopefully it’s never replicated.”

Officer Katlyn Alix

Officer Katlyn Alix, in a photo from her graduation from the St. Louis Police Academy in January 2017.

Hendren’s case had been set for trial next month.

A lawsuit filed by Alix’s family in November claims Hendren had previously forced other women to play similar games of Russian roulette.

Hendren left the police department the same month the shooting occurred. His state peace officer license has been suspended, meaning he cannot work as a police officer.

In June, Alix posthumously received the 2018 officer of the year award from the police department’s North Patrol.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the maximum sentence for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. The story has been updated.(tncms-asset)e7fb1a06-5a56-11ea-b7ad-00163ec2aa77[2](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)984852d4-8067-52bf-8ae2-900d151795ea[3](/tncms-asset)

Joel Currier • 314-340-8132

@joelcurrier on Twitter

jcurrier@post-dispatch.com

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