Tragic Game of Russian Roulette Affects All Cops

 

Years ago, In the Line of Duty had the great good fortune to hire Officer Richard Simpher of the St. Louis Police Department as our technical adviser.  Rich was later promoted to sergeant and became director of the St. Louis PD’s Training Academy.  He was a no b.s. boss who absolutely knew his stuff, a great cop, a great instructor.  On one occasion, Rich had written an analysis of lessons learned for one of our first programs.

He was on-duty and in uniform at the time and wanted me to meet him about three blocks from our office to deliver it.  I asked him why the hey couldn’t he just drive to our office and hand me the information.  He said that, since he was on-duty, he could not cross the border between St. Louis City and the neighboring suburb where we were located due to p.d. rules and regs.

Right by the book, that was Simpher.  Which leads me to the horror story that unfolded here in St. Louis last week.

St. Louis police officer & Russian roulette

Officer Alix Shooting

Officer Kaitlyn Alix – St. Louis

Two uniformed, on-duty officers had strayed far from their patrol district and had gone to the apartment of one of them. Why, is still anybody’s guess.  This was during the midnight hour where s–t so often happens, and this was to be no exception.  Once there, they met a 24-year old female officer named Kaitlyn Alix, who was off-duty and not in uniform.  I’ve been told, despite her tender years, she was a straight-down-the-line solid young officer.

According to reports, one of the uniformed cops, for whatever reason, brandished a gun.  Initially, the public was told it was not his sidearm.  Then, that was walked back, and whose gun it was remains a mystery.  He is reported to have unloaded the gun of all bullets, then put a single bullet back into the chamber, spun it and fired towards a wall or ceiling.  Nothing.  At this point, his partner is said to have started to leave the room and head out of the apartment, reportedly not wanting to have anything to do with the goings-on.  Officer Alix, by accounts, then took the gun, pointed it at the officer’s head and pulled the trigger.  Again, nothing.  Then, the officer, Nathaniel Hedren, apparently took the gun back, pointed it at Officer Alix’ chest, pulled the trigger, the gun fired, and she was struck mortally.

Initial Details On The Situation

At first, we were told by the SLMPD it was a “tragic accident”.  That didn’t last too long, though, before it became an apparent lethal game of Russian Roulette.  Now, with a young cop’s life snuffed out and multiple lives ruined, the questions beg for answers.

  • What in God’s name were they REALLY doing?
  • Where was their supervisor?
  • Did the uniformed officers lie about their whereabouts?
  • Did they even bother to call out of service?
  • If the gun hadn’t discharged on the third pull, would they have kept going?

The Real Question: Was it really a deadly game of Russian Roulette at all? Or did Officer Hendren get furious when Officer Alix took the gun, pointed it at him and pulled the trigger?

Kaitlyn Alix Husband Nathaniel Hendren

Kaitlyn Alix Husband

First reports indicated there were others in the apartment.  Since then, nothing to support or deny that.  The p.d. didn’t order immediate blood draws of the involved parties,  a decision that has angered the City Prosecutor, who has had her knives out for coppers from day one anyway. Where did Officer Hedren get the black eye he was photographed with after his arrest?  Was it really from head-butting and smashing a cruiser windshield after he’d realized what  he had done?

A friend of mine is a recently retired second generation St. Louis officer, and was a damned good cop.  He actually had left the p.d., pursued other business opportunities, then re-joined again at age 50, passing every other recruit in the rigorous physical testing. That feat made national news at the time.  He told me how furious he was that the second uniformed officer had started to leave the apartment without trying to stop the seemingly insane actions that were taking place.

“Ron,” he said, “I’m not very big (stature), but I’ll be damned if I would have left the apartment without trying to do something to end that craziness”.

I believe him.

What the cops are saying about the Shooting

Other cops who’ve chimed in on blogs agree that the second uniform is equally as liable, in their minds, as the first uniform, Hendren, who (seemingly) started the deadly ball rolling.  Plus, many other officers are blogging regarding their skepticism about the entire tragedy as it’s being laid out to the public.  “I call b.s. alert” seems to be the litany of many of them.  My buddy also pointed out that the three officers involved had about five years’ total experience, among all three of them.  The two uniforms were 29-years old.

I have my serious doubts about an insane game of Russian Roulette taking place, but only time will, hopefully, tell. Alcohol? Drugs? Anger? Rage? Jealousy?

 

About officer Katlyn Alix

The dead officer was married, her husband, also a St. Louis cop, was not at the apartment.  What I do say with a fairly high-degree of certainty is that had Sgt. Simpher been at the helm of the training academy when these young officers went through, this tragedy would never have happened. That’s just my dime’s worth of opinion.  However, there’s only one Simpher, and who knows about the mettle and maturity of some recruits, who, honest to God, knows?

Sgt. Adam Plantinga of the San Francisco P.D. who has written the excellent “400 Things Cops Know” is quoted saying “some cops are beyond salvaging”.  I asked him what he meant by that statement, and he told me that “…certain new, newer officers may be too tentative, too slow to pat down, or they allow suspects to get too close, they can (often) be re-trained.  However, if it’s an integrity issue, I don’t know how to fix it.  If a new officer in a critical incident freezes while their partner is in a struggle, and they’re standing 10 feet away like a witness, those people need to take a hard look at themselves, because ‘the job’ may not be in their DNA”.  I will add to that my very humble opinion that some cops just do not get it.

This career is a ‘calling’ God’s calling to me.  Officers are given great powers, life and death, in some cases over their fellow man and woman.  For some officers, whether of tender years or with whiskers, taking advantage of that with stupidity, or outright insane actions, selfish, unthinking, blatant immaturity, disgusting breaking of the rules, or flat out thumbing their noses at societal decency and norms can come with an horrific and a dear price.

That’s why I stick to my ‘guns’ when I titled this blog what I did, because, to me, it affects every cop in the nation, not just St. Louis coppers who’ve come under almost unremitting attack from so many sides for so many years.

Time for mandatory training in maturity, civility and, yes, maybe even a primer on life’s simple rules for survival and longevity.

Everyone, I mean, everyone took a step backward during a tragic midnight last week in old Saint Louis. Maybe, it’s the overwhelming amount of information so readily available on the internet, but I just do not remember ever reading about such insanity when our WW2, Korean and Vietnam vets joined the force, do you?

Ron Barber is President of In the Line of Duty (www.lineofduty.com) which
is America’s sole producer of reality-based video and online training for
 
The company is based in Saint Louis(MO).  E-mail: ron@lineofduty.com, or
call (800)462-5232.

SI41 Program Announcement January 2019

 

SI41 – How Not to Get Shot, Sued, or Thrown in Jail / Use of Force and Liability 
This Special Issue from In the Line of Duty features an entire classroom presentation by Chuck Joyner, a 30-year veteran of the CIA and FBI who teaches survival sciences to law enforcement.
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  • Identification of current areas of high liability
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How Not to Get Shot, Sued or Thrown in Jail includes a complete and comprehensive Trainer’s Guide featuring program overview, interactive discussion points, tests and a Certificate of Completion for officers’ jackets.  POST recognized in most states and excellent for academy, roll call and in-service training, because it is easily segmented.
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Cruiser Cam Video That Launched The Police Officer Safety Industry

In our very first training program, there were so many police officer safety issues that it almost boggled the mind.

It was In the Line of Duty series Volume 1 – Program 1, and to this day, more than 20 years later, it can still  save cops’ lives, as it has since 1995. It is in your face proof that when the most garden variety officer safety tactics are discarded, even broad daylight stops can turn into horror stories in seconds.

In that program, circa 1995, a Georgia State Trooper (Benjy Hodges) had stopped a vehicle for speeding along infamous I-95.

He had approached the passenger in the front seat, and an officer from the county’s s.o. had gotten the driver out and was supposed to be monitoring  him while Hodges dealt with the passenger.

It turned out to ultimately become the first officer involved shooting ever caught on tape  in which a cop shot a subject.

When my partner (Don Marsh) and I first saw the cruiser cam video at the St. Louis PD’s Film and Police Video Unit, we just looked at each other and really didn’t say a word.

It was obvious that cruiser cam video was going to be a seismic shift in the way police officers were trained and educated. Video documented events will helps answer a critical questions: Does law enforcement in the US need improved training?

 


That single clip of crystal clear video of an officer involved shooting was mesmerizing to us, and we knew for a fact, that it would do the same for cops everywhere in the U.S.

In the Line of Duty series was effectively ‘born’ that day when we realized how very  powerful it would be to combine law enforcement video with analysis and lessons learned from the actual police officers involved in critical incidents.

Now, depending on whom you talk to in law enforcement agencies, there are anywhere from three to 10, 20 or more officer safety rules of the road which should never be violated if a cop truly wants to get home safely to his family at the end of the shift.

There are dozens more in the subsets right below anyone’s top 10 (or however many).

For many years, Sgt. Richard Simpher was Line of Duty’s technical adviser, and he was as solid as it gets.

Over those years, Rich superbly analyzed many of the police videos we featured on our Line of Duty series programs, and he became so good, all we had to do was ‘wind him up’ and let him go.

He was the Energizer Bunny in human form—with a lot more energy and smarts.

 

I have learned that , at most, officer safety issues could be boiled down to 3 things:

  • Never let your guard down on contact and cover
  • Always watch deadly hands
  • Always practice superb arrest and control tactics

If ever there was a police/ cruiser cam video where those officer safety tactics went  down the toilet, it was the traffic stop Trooper Hodges made that sunny day on I-95. Not Trooper Hodges’ officer safety tactics but rather his back-up.

The police officer, a pretty near dead-ringer for Rod Steiger in “In the Heat of the Night” or Jackie Gleason in “Smokey and the Bandit” probably did the best he could.

However, it turned out to be such a harrowing performance as cover officer, to this very day, it will cause veteran cops to cringe and shout at the screen.

For, he lost any semblance of composure and focus, waffling back and forth from the subject he’d supine on the trooper’s cruiser hood and watching Trooper Hodges interact with the passenger.  At one point, Trooper Hodges’ spidey senses had piqued, and he told the deputy that if the driver made a move to “shoot him”.

That seemed to further exasperate the deputy, and when you watch the cam video, you’ll clearly see that, as he’s turned towards Trooper Hodges, his gun and holster were literally in the driver’s face.

The holster itself was a Level Zero, and by that I mean there was no safety on the holster, and all anyone would have to do is grab it and shoot.

Two or three times, the driver looks at the gun and holster with the look of a ravenous wolf.

Any cop on earth, watching that video, would have zip, nada and zero doubt the salivating driver could have grabbed the gun, killed the deputy and, quite possibly, the trooper.

As far as ‘watching deadly hands’ is there a single veteran cop who would say that, as long as a subject’s hands are unrestrained, they COULDN’T be potentially deadly?  Hmmmm?

There were also no arrest and control tactics, none.

So, when Trooper Hodges saw that the passenger had a gun on the console and told him (the passenger) not to go for it or he’d  shoot him, you can only imagine how the deputy basically emulsified on the side of the road.

Trooper Hodges did end up shooting the non-compliant passenger, and somehow by dint or miracle neither officer was harmed. Still, complacency, confusion, utter lack of tactics could have made the outcome an ugly one.

Did I mention that the deputy was not wearing a vest?

That program will never fail to rivet police officers’ eyes and ears, and it is a living testament to Sgt. Simpher’s very astute observations.

In looking back, it’s amazing to me how many officer safety programs we have produced where Rich’s simple, yet profound observations continue to hit the old tenpenny nail square on the head.

I’ll have more to say about critical officer safety issues, so stay tuned, please.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Ron Barber – Line Of Duty

Cop Killers With Hidden Cuff Keys

SC Trooper Stabbed To Death
A couple weeks ago, I was amazed to read about a South Carolina trooper who’d been stabbed by a longtime scumbag after a traffic stop. I wasn’t amazed because the officer had been stabbed. That happens to coppers several times a week. I wasn’t amazed because the p.o.s. had a lengthy and violent past. That’s, often, a given when police deal with subjects on stops, calls, emergencies, etc.

The Hidden Cuff Key
What amazed me most was that in only two articles of the dozen or so I read about this incident was it mentioned that this scumbag had a cuff key hidden in his necklace. And, he ACCESSED it, too, and, briefly, was able to escape his cuffs. I’m still looking for additional details.

However, it gets me to my central thesis on this rant. Why in hell don’t officers immediately remove ALL jewelry and any other items on a violent subject’s person that could conceivably hide a cuff key?

This is life-and-death potentially, and the time for playing nice-nice with an individual who has just tried to stab you has long past. Get the damned jewelry i.e. watches, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, hair combs, anything and everything that could conceal a cuff key OFF! Get the cell phone, get the cigarette pack, get the purse, take the wallet. C’mon, this is your life we’re talking about here! I’ll go so far as to add that even ‘big hair’ is suspect.

The Hair Weave
In one of our new Golden Nuggets programs produced this year, GN04 – Life-Saving, Street Smart Tips for Cops, I talked about a woman with a hair weave who’d been concealing all kinds of drugs in her hair, and it wasn’t until a complete comb through by a corrections officer that it was discovered.

And, THAT wasn’t done until it was discovered she had been dealing drugs to other inmates. Where the hey was she getting and secreting the drugs?!

Sherlock Holmes used to say that after all other options were eliminated (in crime-solving) the last one was the solution. In this case, it was the woman’s big hair.

Hank Earl Carr (Cop Killer)

Now, for all you officers 30 or under, the name Hank Earl Carr probably means nothing to you. So, I’ll tell you who he was.

One of the most evil, murderous, lying, conniving sons of bitches who ever lived. Carr murdered his little step-son, and when the cops came, he bobbed and weaved, coming up with every damned excuse he possibly could to obfuscate his involvement. His girlfriend, the little boy’s mother, pathologically lied with him every step of the way.

When Carr was handcuffed (in front) by two veteran Tampa homicide detectives for a ride downtown for additional questioning, he tried to wriggle out of the handcuffs, basically in broad daylight and in front of the two coppers.

They verbally warned him not to try that again. He didn’t. Instead of trying to wriggle free of the cuffs, he accessed a hidden cuff key (arguably in a necklace that hadn’t been confiscated/searched), and murdered the two detectives on the way to h.q.
In his escape, he then lured a young Florida trooper to pull in right behind him after a short pursuit. Then, he slaughtered the trooper.

Ultimately, Carr blew himself away after a standoff at a convenience store where he’d taken a woman hostage. It’s all there in Line of Duty’s training program, ‘Tampa Cop Killings’ which, to me, should have been mandatory viewing for all law enforcement officers these last 20 years or so.

Alabama Officer Murdered

The Mobile(AL) P.D. worked with Line of Duty on still another training program, “Murder of an Alabama Officer” in which an arrested lowlife sprouting nonsense was able to access a cuff key and the blade within.

He cut a veteran officer’s jugular, and the officer was dead on the sallyport floor in a couple minutes.

I’m, quite honestly, surprised more cuff keys aren’t being found. It takes incredibly thorough pat downs and, often, done multiple times to do the job properly. And, you cannot tell me every gang-banging, violent scumbag out here wouldn’t love to be the first on his block to get over on the cops. That’s bragging rights in the big house, and you know it.

Always remain aware that, as Joe Friday said long ago on ‘Dragnet’, those are “just the facts”.

See what ITLOD has to offer.

Here are previews to both our programs on the Tampa Cop Killings and Murder of an Alabama Officer.

V09P11 – The Tampa Massacre
SI26 – AL Officer Stabbed to Death

I am proud to recommend them highly for every law enforcement training library in the civilized world. Plus, for reading my blog, we’re offering you 2-for-the-price of one. If you’re interested please visit our online store at www.lineofduty.com, or e-mail sales@lineofduty.com or call 1(800)462-5232.

If you don’t think it turns out to be one of the best investments in training you ever made or will make, let me know. I’ll refund your every nickel.

Best, and in Officer Safety,
Ron Barber
ron@lineofduty.com

Interview with Richard Blackburn – Trooper Coates’ killer

Interview with Trooper Coates’ killer and posting photos of cop killers

Over 20 years ago, Line of Duty produced one of its most enduring training
programs, “Interview with a Cop Killer”.

I went to South Carolina and interviewed Trooper Mark Coates’ murderer
Richard Blackburn at length. (PHOTO OF BLACKBURN. TAKE A FREEZE
FRAME FROM THE ACTUAL PROGRAM)

According to Google – at summer of 2018,  it is still one of our most watched training programs ever.

It was, to my knowledge, the very first time a convicted cop killer had ever been
interviewed about his crime with the complete, horrific incident caught on cruiser
cam.

In fact, two cruiser cams.

He looked pathetic, lost and obese when the corrections officers brought him into
the interview room in a wheelchair at the (( )) where he was serving
a justifiable life-without-parole sentence. Believe me, there wasn’t a cop alive
in South Carolina who didn’t want to see Richard Blackburn executed long prior
to my interview with him.

Blackburn (to me) seemed to want to cooperate and did not dodge any question
I threw at him.

First, I asked what prompted him to ultimately explode in fury at Trooper Coates.

He said he initially felt put out, because Trooper Coates had picked his old
beater out for a speeding stop and yet, Blackburn claimed, there were other newer
model cars that had sped by faster than he was driving.

It’s an invaluable program, one that, I feel, truly tried to get into the psyche of a
cop killer, and, apparently, over the years many law enforcement officials agree,
because it has been watched and studied so very often. Still is.

Which gets me to my point.

When a Florence, SC officer was shot to death and several other cops were also
wounded earlier this week, I tried to stay on top of it and post every breaking
development.

That included ultimately posting a photo of the officer’s alleged killer.

Plenty of you responded negatively and implored me to delete the subject’s photo.

You had a damned good reason, too. He’d just killed a great veteran officer and
seriously wounded several others. Why give him a scintilla of publicity?

I hear you, I do.

However, as a journalist who actually tries to provide as much fact as I can in a
major story, this man’s photo and background seemed to be critical to me.

Without his heinous actions, there would have been no story.

If the Chicago Tribune over 50 years ago didn’t publish the photo and background
of Richard Speck next to the student nurses he’d methodically murdered, it would have
been an unspeakable oversight.

When a cop is slain ITLOD, don’t you think it’s absolutely imperative to show his (or her)
photo and as much of his (or her) background humanly possible?

Don’t you want to try to learn from absolutely any aspect of the killer’s personality, background,
motive, or reasoning?

That, of course, includes his photograph or, perhaps, multiple photographs which can, often,
supplement just exactly who is this and why he did what he did.

20 years ago, if I’d provided only an audio interview with Richard Blackburn, wouldn’t you have
much rather SEEN this man, watched his expressions, studied his mannerisms, learned from
his physical machinations?

I absolutely think so.

Personally, I think it’s TRULY reprehensible when a media outlet does NOT provide photos and
as much descriptive information as possible about a cop shooter or cop killer.

I see that more and more often when the suspect is a minority, and I hate to say that, but it’s
the truth.

I choose the high ground and will always give you every iota of information on a cop killer,
including photos.

To me, we must learn from tragedy, and that should include learning all we can about the
perpetrators of life’s most horrific, horrendous events.

P.S. FYI, here’s a preview link to our interview with Richard Blackburn:
(PREVIEW)

If you’re interested in the complete interview, please visit our online store at www.lineofduty.com,
or e-mail sales@lineofduty.com or call 1(800)462-5232.

Always in officer safety,
Ron Barber
In the Line of Duty