St. Louis, MO – The St. Louis prosecutor has accused the police department of using “obstructionist” tactics to protect the officers being investigated in the shooting death of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Katlyn Alix.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner sent a letter to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department chief and the city’s director of public safety on Monday that also questioned the department’s quick labeling of Officer Alix’s shooting as an “accident.”
Officer Alix, 24, was fatally shot just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 24 while visiting with two other officers.
On-duty Officer Hendren and his unidentified on-duty partner met Officer Alix shortly after night shift roll call to socialize.
While at the house, Officer Hendren grabbed a revolver that was not a department-issued weapon.
He removed all of the bullets and then put one back in, according to the probable cause statement.
Officer Hendren spun the cylinder, pointed the gun away, and pulled the trigger. The gun didn't fire.
Officer Alix then took the gun, pointed it at Officer Hendren, and pulled the trigger. Again, the gun didn't fire.
At that point, the unidentified partner of Officer Hendren told investigators that he reminded the two that they were police officers, shouldn't be playing with guns, and said he wanted no part of it.
He said he started to leave when Officer Hendren took the gun and pulled the trigger while it was pointed at Officer Alix's chest.
That time, the gun fired, striking Officer Alix in the chest.
The on-duty officers sent out an “officer in need of aid” alert, and rushed Officer Alix to St. Louis University Hospital where she was pronounced dead, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
While at the hospital, Officer Hendren head-butted the back windshield of a police SUV, breaking it, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
He was charged the next day with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for his involvement in Officer Alix’s death.
The prosecutor’s letter alleged that the police department had been complicit in blocking the prosecutor’s office from obtaining blood samples from the officers at the hospital on the night of the incident.
In her letter to the police chief, Colonel John Hayden, and St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, Gardner wrote that there had been “probable cause at the scene that drugs or alcohol may be a contributing factor in a potential crime.”
She said the prosecutor’s office had informed police they wanted a blood sample from each of the officers present when Officer Alix was fatally shot and proceeded to get a warrant, but that police put up road blocks.
First, they said the hospital wouldn’t honor the warrant, which Gardner wrote wasn’t true.
Then police officials told prosecutors they had taken a “sample,” but didn’t reveal that they’d done only urine and breaths samples, versus a more accurate blood sample.
They also didn’t reveal the fact that the test had been conducted under Garrity, according to the prosecutor’s letter.
Garrity Rights protects a public employee from being compelled to incriminate themselves by their employer during an internal investigation, which means the results of the officers’ test administered by the department under Garrity cannot be used in a criminal prosecution.
Gardner complained that the police had intentionally obtained the samples in a manner that prohibited prosecutors from using the results to criminally prosecute either officer, despite the fact the department was well aware that the incident was being investigated as a criminal matter.
“This is a serious problem in objective investigative tactics,” the prosecutor complained in her letter. “The police department understood that we wanted blood samples for the purposes of criminal investigation. Taking these tests under the cover of Garrity appears as an obstructionist tactic to prevent us from understanding the state of the officers during the commission of the alleged crime.”
“We have the expectation that those test results will be turned over to our office immediately as part of the ongoing investigation,” Gardner demanded.
The public safety director responded to Gardner’s allegations during a press conference on Tuesday.
“To suggest that an officer is engaging in any obstruction of justice is ludicrous,” Edwards said, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Riverfront Times reported that Edwards said prosecutors will get the test results they’re seeking. He also said they would be made public as the case progressed.
Officer Hendren’s attorney called the allegations about drugs being involved “categorically false.”
The attorney, Talmadge Newton IV, said Gardner’s attempts to gain access to the tests were a violation of his client’s constitutional rights, Riverfront Times reported.
Newtown said the prosecutor’s letter showed the she had ignored the information provided to her by "seasoned professionals on the scene, who are experienced and entrusted with investigations, when she filed these uniformed and unsustainable charges.”
Officer Alix graduated from the police academy in January of 2017, and was assigned to the department’s Sixth District, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
She was working as a patrol officer with the Second District at the time of her death.