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
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?
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?