Subscribe for 99¢

ST. LOUIS — The mother of St. Louis police Officer Katlyn Alix claims in a lawsuit that the fellow officer charged with killing Alix had a “complicated psychiatric history,” including forcing other girlfriends to play Russian roulette, and that the city should have known it before hiring him.

Alix, 24, was shot to death Jan. 24 while off-duty and at the home of an on-duty officer, Nathaniel Hendren.

Officer Katlyn Alix

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

Alix’s mother, Aimee L. Wahlers, filed a wrongful-death suit Wednesday in St. Louis Circuit Court against Hendren, Patrick Riordan, Gary Foster and the city of St. Louis. Riordan was Hendren’s partner on duty that night; he has not been charged with a crime. Foster was their sergeant.

Hendren is charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. He is accused in the shooting of Alix while they were playing a Russian-roulettelike game at Hendren’s home in the 700 block of Dover Place in the Carondelet neighborhood.

Among the claims made in Wahlers’ lawsuit:

• Neighbors heard a “screaming fight” and a man and woman yelling before the shooting.

• Hendren forced other girlfriends to play Russian roulette and engage in other sexual activity that involved firearms.

• Prior to being hired by St. Louis as a police officer, Hendren had a “complicated psychiatric history” that included anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and “suicidal ideations and gestures.”

• Hendren, who has a military background, had, on occasion, put a loaded gun to his mouth and his head “when alone, just to feel something.”

Talmage Newton IV, a lawyer for Hendren in the criminal case, has said the death of Alix was a “tragic accident.” Newton on Thursday said he just got a copy of the lawsuit and is still reviewing it. But a cursory review, Newton said, found “all sorts of inaccuracies and misstatements,” he said. “It’s not precise.” He did not elaborate about what was inaccurate.

Asked about the specific allegation that Hendren forced previous girlfriends to play Russian roulette in the past, Newton said: “I have no information on that.”

Officer Nathaniel Hendren

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

Wahlers is from Moscow Mills. She referred questions to her lawyer, John M. Simon, who is handling the case along with Clayton attorney Scott Rosenblum. Simon was not available for comment. Rosenblum would only say that he looked forward to working with lawyers Simon and his son, Cole Rosenblum, and “getting this case to trial.”

St. Louis police Chief John Hayden declined to comment on the lawsuit because it’s pending litigation, he said. He also declined to say if the department had had any concerns about Hendren’s behavior before the incident. A police department spokesman, Sgt. Keith Barrett, said that, in general, the department has all applicants go through a psychiatric evaluation before being hired.

Alix’s family doesn’t know the full extent of Hendren’s psychiatric history because the police department has refused to turn over his disciplinary or employment files. City Counselor Julian Bush said he has not read the lawsuit and declined comment.

The 46-page lawsuit gives a detailed account of what it claims led up to Alix’s shooting. It describes behavior of Hendren and Riordan, including drinking while on duty, being outside of their patrol zone, and skipping a burglary call — allegations previously reported by the Post-Dispatch.

Alix met Hendren and Riordan at Hendren’s home while the two men were supposed to be working, and Hendren and Riordan consumed alcohol and other “unknown substances,” the suit says. “Officer Alix, who was off duty, was intoxicated and vulnerable,” the suit says.

After the screaming heard by neighbors, Hendren pulled out his personal revolver and reportedly fired empty shots down a hallway, then put a single bullet into the gun and pointed it at Alix’s chest, the suit says. He fired the gun and the shot killed Alix, the suit says, claiming that Riordan saw it happen and failed to intervene.

As Riordan ran outside to start his patrol car, Hendren carried Alix outside, apparently dropping her multiple times and struggling to get her into the back seat of the patrol car, the lawsuit says. When they arrived at the hospital, the suit says, Alix was “for an unknown reason” naked from the hips up; her sports bra was pulled over her head.

The officers dragged “her lifeless body” into the emergency room at 1:22 a.m. on Jan. 24, the suit says. Outside the hospital, Hendren, a minute later, is seen slamming his head through the back windshield of Sgt. Foster’s police SUV. The suit also is critical that tests to determine Hendren’s blood alcohol level weren’t taken for more than 2½ hours.

In the play-by-play of the evening, the lawsuit does not talk about Alix handling weapons. However, in a probable cause statement when criminal charges were filed in January against Hendren, authorities said Hendren and Alix had taken turns pointing the gun and pulling the trigger.

Mark Schlinkmann and Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


Review some of the year’s notable crimes

Get high-interest news alerts delivered promptly to your inbox.