St. Louis prosecutor questions PD's handling of officer's shooting death
The prosecutor accused the department of obstruction in the investigation of an officer fatally shot by a colleague
New York Daily News
ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis prosecutor publicly accused the police department of being “obstructionist” in its “completely inappropriate” handling of an investigation into the shooting death of a young police officer.
St. Louis officer Nathaniel Hendren was charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for allegedly shooting 24-year-old officer Katlyn Alix during a game of Russian Roulette in his apartment. He was taken into custody Monday and could face up to 10 years behind bars.
In a letter to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner noted that prosecutors were not allowed to perform a blood test on Hendren and another unidentified officer despite “probable cause at the scene that drugs or alcohol may be contributing factor” in the shooting.
Gardner added her office was later informed that the officers underwent urine analysis and breath analysis, both of which are less precise than a blood test. She said those samples were protected under Garrity Rights, which protect public employees at the center of internal investigations.
“Taking these tests under Garrity appears as an obstructionist tactic to prevent us from understanding the state of the officers during the commission of this alleged crime,” the letter reads.
“We have the expectation that those test results will be turned over to our office immediately as part of the ongoing investigation.”
Hendren and his partner — who were both on duty at the time — were with Alix in Hendren’s apartment early Thursday when they started playing round with a revolver.
Shortly before 1 a.m., Hendren emptied all the bullets from the firearm, replacing only one of them before closing the chamber, police wrote in a probable cause statement. He spun the cylinder, took aim and pulled the trigger, but it did not go off.
He handed off the gun to Alix, who also pulled the trigger. After it again failed to discharge, she passed it back to Hendren who fired another round, this time directly into Alix’s chest.
The officers used a police radio to request help and rushed Alix to St. Louis University hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after their arrival.
In the shooting’s aftermath, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department labeled the incident an “accident” due to the “mishandling of a firearm.” Gardner in her letter to officials also took issue with the police department’s characterization of events.
“In my opinion, it is completely inappropriate for investigators to approach a crime scene that early in the investigation with a pre-disposed outcome of a case. It’s particularly troublesome given that the Force Investigative Unit is required to conduct objective investigation of officer-involved shootings,” she said.
“I understand your need to get information out to the public quickly regarding officer-involved shooting cases, however, the labeling of any criminal incident as an accident prior to a full investigation is a violation of our duty as objective fact finders.”
Gardner concluded the letter by saying she has “other issues” she’d like to discuss “concerning the investigation of this case” and requested a meeting with the officials.
Edwards during a press conference Tuesday defended the department and denied the claims outlined in the prosecutor’s letter, according to KMOV4.
“Our officers are not obstructionist,” he said, guaranteeing the officer’s test results would be made available to the public.
“We have to be careful and we have to be fair and we should not vilify the entire department based on what transpired here.”
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