Patterico's Pontifications

1/29/2019

That “Cops Playing Russian Roulette” Case Out of St. Louis Looks a Lot Like Murder

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:01 am



This is a rare and excellent guest post by commenter and very occasional guest blogger JRM. For best results, follow all the links. — Patterico

[Guest post by JRM]

OK, so let’s talk about the St. Louis shooting of the cop by the other cop. I’d like to thank the host for a shot at a guest post. (tl;dr version: Yes, it should be murder.)

Part One: The Facts. The allegations are: Officer Hendren and Partner are on duty. They go to visit Officer Alix who is off-duty. Alix is the only female officer, and they visit at Hendren’s house. As you do, they begin playing with handguns. Hendren clears a revolver – not a duty weapon – and puts one bullet in the chamber and begins screwing around, spinning the cylinder. Partner wanders away. Supposedly, Hendren aimed the weapon away from Alix when he fired, and then Alix took it and pointed it at his head and dry-fired, and then Hendren took it back and shot her in the chest and then she died.

Now, our source for this account appears to be Hendren. Partner is out of the room (he says) when the shooting occurs. Alix is dead. This leaves one person telling the tale. The unpleasant and cynical among you may think claiming Russian roulette where you shoot the other person at your house while you’re on duty and she’s not is maybe not true. And let me get this out of the way: We don’t have reliable facts on this generally because the law enforcement earlier response to this contradicts the current narrative. But for this analysis, I’m accepting these facts as true.

Part Two: Russian Roulette, Polish Roulette, and Just Shoot Them.

These cases come in four basic scenarios:

1. Regular Russian roulette: One bullet in the chamber, we all take turns (usually while hammered) pulling the trigger until someone dies. The seminal case on this, Commonwealth v. Atencio, comes from Massachussetts in 1964 where the survivors were successfully prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter, but different states have different rules. This is a thorny issue that merits another 600 words, which you’ve built up sufficient karma to avoid.  

2. The after-party: Someone ends up killing themselves accidentally after everyone else has finished the game and no one’s dead yet. This is generally not a criminal homicide. 

3. This thing, where the gun is pointed at the other person, called “Polish roulette,” in one case. I can find no case where a murder conviction has been overturned for this conduct anywhere in the United States. I am not saying they don’t exist, but that’s the way to bet. Here’s a case where the guy has two bullets in the chamber, fires once to his head (click) asks his friend if she’s OK with him firing it at her, and she says “yes.” Then she’s dead. He appealed on the ground of, “Hey, this is involuntary manslaughter because I’m super-wasted and she consented.” No. No, it isn’t. 

4. “Russian roulette,” in name only. Somebody may have different goals and be playing by different rules. In one case, a guy claimed it was Russian roulette but then clarified that he put the gun at the back of the other guy’s head and said, “Surprise, motherfucker,” before pulling the trigger. The victim was more dead than surprised. 

Part Three: The Law, almost everywhere in the United States: Let’s take a step back and figure out what crime is committed when we’re having our fun game of Russian roulette. For this, in most jurisdictions, we need to discuss malice.

Suppose Patterico says, “That JRM has been dissing Ted Cruz for a long time. I would like him dead; in order to make him dead, I will stab him a lot of times,” and then stabs me a lot of times. That’s express malice. That’s murder.

Suppose Carl Llama stabs a guy in the chest 37 times. The defense: “I did not know stabbing people in the chest all those times could kill him” — if true — negates malice in California and lots and lots of other states and it’s an involuntary manslaughter. But just not caring is not enough; we think Carl is lying about this. It’s not a felony murder because of something called the “merger doctrine,” which makes assaultive felonies that constitute the killing ineligible for felony murder.


So we end up with implied malice or depraved heart murders on all kinds of facts – go on a weeklong meth bender and leave your baby to die, and you’re a murderer. Drive 110 miles an hour super-stoned? Murder for you. You did something very dangerous knowing it was dangerous. Like, say, firing a gun with at least one bullet in it at a person.

The Model Penal Code and lots of states have ruled either explicitly or implicitly that Russian roulette is one of those things that shows implied malice or depraved heart murder. 

But this, my friends, is just a detour in this specific case. Because we’re in Missouri. 

Part Four:  The Law in Missouri – like Texas before it – is different. A 1986 change in the law removed first degree felony murder for enumerated felonies, and made all felonies eligible for second degree murder. The Missouri courts were initially taking the Beavis approach to legislative intent — “Words suck” — until eventually coming around to the Butthead approach — “Words mean stuff” — and abolished the merger doctrine.

The relevant statutes are Missouri’s second degree murder statute – Missouri Revised Statute (MRS) 565.021 which says a person commits murder if they “commit or attempt to commit  any felony, and, in the perpetration or the attempted perpetration of such felony or in the flight from the perpetration or attempted perpetration of such felony, another person is killed[…]”

Do we have a felony here? How about second degree assault, which is MRS 565.052(4) – Recklessly causes physical injury to another person by means of discharge of a firearm? That happened.

Now, ideally, we’d have a series of cases which explain that the merger doctrine has been abolished specifically as to second degree assault… oh, right, in 2016 State v. Tuttle approved of an instruction that made the felony of stabbing sufficient for felony murder and said the merger doctrine was dead in Missouri. That’s a Southern District case; the Western District has similarly ruled, and the Eastern District (where St. Louis is) has a case where the court rules that it doesn’t have to decide, but that current Missouri jurisprudence was that the merger doctrine was, like many a Russian roulette player, stone cold dead.

Which means in Missouri, this is a felony murder.

Part Five: Sympathy for a Cop-killer. (But not from me.)

Hendren has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the DA”s statement is striking. I am not making this up:  “Today, as much as it saddens my staff and me to file these charges, Katlyn [Alix] and her family deserve accountability and justice.”

Let’s take a look at prosecutor’s statements when people point guns at cops and shoot them to death. Generally, they lack the tone of, “I am very sad to charge poor Mr. Copkiller with a very bad charge, but I guess we need to do this, not because murdering police is super-terrible but the family has hurt feelings, so we just have to no matter how much catching and prosecuting cop-killers makes us cry.” 

This appears to be murder under Missouri law, under every other state’s law, under basic systems of fairness, under everything. I’d understand a non-murder resolution, but murder’s not an overcharge here. It’s not remotely a reach – it’s the clear crime when one takes a partly loaded firearm, aims it at someone’s chest, and fires. Officer Alix paid with her life; Officer – I assume soon-to-be Mr. – Hendren ought to pay with more than an involuntary manslaughter. 

This charging and this explanation are not respectful to the good cops out there. It’s not respectful to the rule of law. It’s not respectful to the citizens of St. Louis. This is not some second-guessing of a snap judgment, this is a straight-up unjustified, predictable killing. This is a bad business, and it sure as hell looks like murder to me.

Part Six: The Caveats. 

I might be wrong on the facts. I might have misinterpreted Missouri law. I might not know very important things that alter the equities of the situation.


I’ve included funny links and humor in this post. I always give a little blurb early in my oral law-of-homicide presentations – I’m educating with humor, but actual murders are awful. Occasionally a murder victim’s family member attends one of these; they are always very nice and understanding. To be clear: Officer Alix deserved better. If the factual account is accurate, this looks like murder, and I believe based on my incomplete information that it ought to have been charged.

That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.  

(If you think I speak for my employer, I weep for you.)

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

— JRM

69 Responses to “That “Cops Playing Russian Roulette” Case Out of St. Louis Looks a Lot Like Murder”

  1. I have a very hard time believing that a police officer would be playing a game of russian roulette. Every day they punch in they are playing a game of russian roulette. Then a married off duty female officer shows up at this other on duty officers house, which by the way was 3 miles outside his district? Ok so he wanted to go home and grab a pair of sweatpants. Nope he decided to hang out a little while and start up a game of russian roulette. None of this makes sense to me. Either these cops lied about what they were really doing or the people of St Louis should be scared to death of who the city is hiring as cops.

    anonymous (4f3f3b)

  2. I am of the opinion that the shooter should be charged with murder because the Russian roulette story is a fairy tale, and we don’t need believe his entire confession. Just the part where he admits to pointing a gun at another person and pulling the trigger at point blank range. If the jury wants to believe the exculpatory/attenuating parts, that’s their business.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Why didn’t he say that she made a suspicious move towards her waist and he feared for his safety and that of his partner? With this prosecutor, he might not have been charged at all.

    nk (dbc370)

  4. Great post. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    Time123 (a7a01b)

  5. it’s also striking you don’t name the sleazy DA

    that means this page never comes up when people search on his name

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  6. or her name

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  7. Wait this was the story they came up with, seriously?

    Narciso (beeb9a)

  8. Well, they saw that “she startled him by slapping the trunk of the car” did not work in Minnesota.

    nk (dbc370)

  9. When you have a DA so infamous she need be named, the PD talent pool starts evaporating. This is probably the worst case to begin reversing course and puts a lie to the intersectionality concept.

    At first glance,though, I thought Ofc. Alix was a hire for Bosnian community appeasement (there’s a considerable community wedged between black North St. Louis and Gephardt-ian white etnik South St. Louis), and thus stupid handgun games may be more common in that demo, but i was mistaken.

    urbanleftbehind (4d3585)

  10. Damnable patriarchy! Toody and Muldoon would never have tried this.

    Colonel Haiku (61b436)

  11. Coming to Netflix: “St. Louis Toodle-00”

    Colonel Haiku (61b436)

  12. Ah the da whose under criminal investigation,

    Narciso (beeb9a)

  13. Maybe if the officer had been tied up first.

    Narciso (beeb9a)

  14. Hmm. I might not even allow a second degree murder/voluntary manslaughter jury instruction, let alone an involuntary manslaughter one. Russian roulette is not mutual combat. Each pull of the trigger is a separate voluntary act with its own premeditation.

    nk (dbc370)

  15. Great post!

    Patterico (115b1f)

  16. I reread this with the theme song of the Benny Hill show playing in my head and then it made sense

    mg (609b7b)

  17. More like show me training day.

    Narciso (72741d)

  18. If memory serves, this is the same DA that made public a list of police officers she would not allow to testify because they allegedly had Brady material on them. She didn’t disclose what these officers had done that would make them impeachable on the stand, nor apparently did she give the officers any chance to defend themselves. Being Brady’d is a career killer as an officer.

    CygnusAnalogMan (9c66ec)

  19. Two different things, CygnusAnalogMan. One, the list of police officers Gardner thought would not make good witnesses (probably because they would not “testilie” to help the incompetent prosecutor’s cases); and two, her failure to comply with Brady v. Maryland (prosecution’s duty to disclose exculpatory evidence) in half her felony cases.

    Impeach the witch.

    nk (dbc370)

  20. This story doesn’t make any sense, was she lured to
    hendrens home for some reason.

    narciso (d1f714)

  21. Entertaining and interesting post! Thanks for writing this.

    Dustin (f1579e)

  22. Strong post. I don’t see how this isn’t 2nd degree murder.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  23. without know why he killed her it’s kinda hard to make any judgments about this

    this is why it’s important to always be honest and not make up stories

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  24. No, first degree why did the partner leave the room.

    Narciso (03b8dc)

  25. partner left room cause if he was in the room he had a duty to intervene in this fun party game

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  26. Murder 1. Death penalty. This was premeditated because she probably wouldn’t go along with a corruption scheme. I could be wrong…

    skwilli (a0813f)

  27. “I have a very hard time believing that a police officer would be playing a game of russian roulette.”

    My cousin shared a house with an LAPD Officer back in the early 80s. She caught him spinning the cylinder and pulling the trigger one night. She also said some of his fellow officers were very depressed and fatalistic.

    This is a lot different than the situation as described in St Louis and IMHO it stops being russian roulette as soon as the chance discharge is not self-inflicted, just that I’ve heard of at least one cop who apparently did play the game.

    This basically just sounds like murder.

    harkin (97db13)

  28. Whether it’s murder or not, there’s no way to spin this to paint the cops involved in a good light. Stupidity? Perhaps. Malice? Perhaps. But if this is indeed “St. Louis’ Finest,” perhaps we should start re-evaluating just what it is we expect from our boys in blue.

    Gryph (08c844)

  29. The allegations are: Officer Hendren and Partner are on duty. They go to visit Officer Alix who is off-duty. Alix is the only female officer, and they visit at Hendren’s house.

    Why are these facts related in this form?

    Shouldn’t it be:

    Officer Hendren and Partner are on duty but Hendren goes home, and Partner goes with him, where Officer Alix, the only female officer, who is off-duty, is present, either before or after they get there.

    Now anyway, these facts are apparently undisputed: Three police officers, two while on durty, – Hendren and Partner and Officer Alix – were at the house.

    The only other thing we know is that Officer Hendren – apparently by his own account – took an (unlicensed?) weapon (of unknown origin? Or do we know?) – a revolver – and shot Officer Alix in the chest and she died. We also know that Partner admits being in the house, but said he saw nothing. Hendren is not blaiming Partner, nor Alix, although he claims she handled the weapon. (cooroborated by physical evidence or not, and can that be faked?)

    It could he can’t blame Alix because of the physical evidence, and can’t blame Prrtner because Partner will say…???

    We also may suspect that one or both of the surviving officers lied and had to change their story.

    The question here is, taking Officer hendren and Partner’s current version of events, is that murder?

    I can say this, very often suspects confess to what they hope is a lesser or nonexistent crime, but people who know the law, prosecute them on the basis of their confession.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  30. 20. narciso (d1f714) — 1/29/2019 @ 8:18 am

    This story doesn’t make any sense, was she lured to hendrens home for some reason.

    We’re not getting told anything about the previous relationship between the 3 police officers – and it’s very peculiar how they got together while two of them were on duty.

    And we’re not getting told any of the history of the fatal weapon.

    And we’re not getting told the version of events the two surviving cops first told.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  31. happyfeet @25

    partner left room cause if he was in the room he had a duty to intervene in this fun party game

    Not really, because it could have happened too quickly.

    We coudl suspect

    Partner SAYS he left the room, because that make him a witness to whatever rwally happened.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  32. Herndon doesn’t say Partner fired the weapon, either because it was known to be his, or because Partner would then tell what he knows.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  33. 7. Narciso (beeb9a) — 1/29/2019 @ 5:25 am

    Wait this was the story they came up with, seriously?

    Herndon had to admit firing the weapon.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  34. i think it’s likely this was a pre-meditated murder Mr. F where the two boy cops came up with a clever scheme to kill the girl cop

    they probably didn’t stop to think how this would make the DA feel (sad panda DA)

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  35. yes, but it doesn’t pass the smell test,

    narciso (d1f714)

  36. It is understandable that this post discusses murder in light of the story presented by the killer(s). But that’s in arguendo. For people to actually act like they believe Officer Alix was playing Russian Roulette is disgusting. She’s dead and cannot defend herself from this lie, and it is indeed an obvious lie. They did not come to talk to her in the middle of the night, during shift, about nothing. Whatever that was is what this was actually about.

    Her husband was also a cop. The shooter’s mugshot looks like he was kicked in the face repeatedly (The story is that he bashed his face, which would make his story even less credible if so). That these cops were often partnered on the street suggests something that happened on the street was the root of the discussion that night before things got out of hand.

    I can only hope the reason the DA and PD are acting weird about this is that they are being coy about a larger investigation.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  37. Kamala Harris: Violent attack on ‘Empire’ star is ‘attempted modern day lynching’

    the stupidness of this idiot floozy is an indicator of low intelligence i think

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  38. of course, it’s an implausible scenario, no one has to wonder what was Hendren’s motive in all this,

    narciso (d1f714)

  39. Probably some carefully selected Shaun King-complected hit men wearing surplus gear from a Turning point giveaway…..being an Empire anything is equivalent to rolling in Schiff…dont be surprised if you start smelling really bad.

    urbanleftbehind (4d3585)

  40. I heard Talcum X described as a “high profile political activist” on the car radio the other morning. I was thankful that I’d already finished my coffee when I heard that.

    Colonel Haiku (61b436)

  41. Verbal Kint at the 3:03 mark… https://youtu.be/QnxEeT5pCes

    Colonel Haiku (61b436)

  42. Probably some carefully selected Shaun King-complected hit men wearing surplus gear …

    More probably some rough trade roughed him up at a nearby, undisclosed, hotel room, and he remembered that every crisis is an opportunity, spicing it up with the rope around his neck which may or may not have played a role in the same nearby, undisclosed, hotel room.

    I don’t believe anything “those people” say anymore.

    nk (dbc370)

  43. So there are Chicagoans walking around at 2AM, temp in the ‘teens looking for someone to mess up?

    Colonel Haiku (61b436)

  44. Hendren clears a revolver – not a duty weapon – and puts one bullet in the chamber and begins screwing around, spinning the cylinder. Partner wanders away. Supposedly, Hendren aimed the weapon away from Alix when he fired, and then Alix took it and pointed it at his head and dry-fired, and then Hendren took it back and shot her in the chest and then she died.

    I counted TWO bullets being fired.

    So waht is the claim? One bullet wss added, but there were some bullets in there already?

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  45. Yes, Col., that’s fairly common, except it’s the straight version of Smollett looking for generic victims, exacerbated by police resources pulled from “nice” areas to placate the South and West sides.

    urbanleftbehind (4d3585)

  46. Dustin (6d7686) — 1/29/2019 @ 2:10 pm

    She’s dead and cannot defend herself from this lie, and it is indeed an obvious lie.

    It seems like.

    Although we have to consider the possibility that he confessed to something which makes him more legally culpable than the truth.

    The shooter’s mugshot looks like he was kicked in the face repeatedly (The story is that he bashed his face, which would make his story even less credible if so).

    If he was injured and they were in a fight, that could be a form of self-defense. MAybe only manslaughter and he confessed to murder. (maybe to hide other crimesd)

    They did not come to talk to her in the middle of the night, during shift, about nothing.

    Since she was at Hendron’s place, it looks more like she came to talk to him.

    Are there any cellphone or text message records?

    What about where bullets landed?

    Whatever that was is what this was actually about.

    Some job dispute? She wanted to blackmail him? She wanted to complain about him but give him a chance to settle?

    Her husband was also a cop….That these cops were often partnered on the street suggests something that happened on the street was the root of the discussion that night before things got out of hand. …I can only hope the reason the DA and PD are acting weird about this is that they are being coy about a larger investigation.

    I would hope so too but I don’t know how much hope to hold out.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  47. Sammy, the cops did not say the man beat his face into the steel divider if he was already injured when they encountered him. Remember, there are cameras all over at that point.

    Since she was at Hendron’s place, it looks more like she came to talk to him.

    Yeah, that’s correct. They still had to come to her, at his place, but she probably wanted to talk about something pretty important.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  48. The public explanation sounds like “depraved heart” murder to me. Which category of murder Missouri law places that I know not.

    As for any sub rosa entanglements and imbroglios among these officers…more than a few things are possible, but there is no publicly available evidence to base an opinion on.

    Kishnevi (61bde2)

  49. So, if I put six bullets in a wheel-gun (Russian roulette with semi-autos is a different subject), and say “let’s play Russian Roulette, you go first”, and they do, and then with nobody watching I remove the other fie bullets and put them on the table as if they had been there all the time, it’s negligent homicide?

    I guess you could say the other person was a fracking idiot for not checking, but, well, he was playing Russian Roulette so that’s already in evidence.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  50. Kamala Harris: Violent attack on ‘Empire’ star is ‘attempted modern day lynching’

    Much like what Harris did to Kavanaugh.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  51. Is Ruthie alive?

    mg (8cbc69)

  52. Except that in this case they were shooting at each other, not at themselves, according to the claim of the surviving shooter, Kevin.

    nk (dbc370)

  53. they’re just a macabre missouri anecdote though

    most of your murder-inclined popo are a wee bit more clever than these ones

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  54. It’s scary. (Or maybe I’m scaring too easily, lately.) If they do this to each other, what do they do to the poor people they “police”?

    nk (dbc370)

  55. And would you ever in deine Leben have suspected a Russian hooker of lying just to get out of a Thai prison?

    nk (dbc370)

  56. it’s a fallen whirl Mr. nk

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  57. Wait didnt some people fall for it here, just saying

    Narciso (82a663)

  58. Yes, who would ever have suspected a premier news organization like CNN, a paragon of journalistic competence, integrity, and ethics, and a Champion Of First Amendment Freedoms, to have unquestioningly published the lie?

    nk (dbc370)

  59. But going back to the St. Louis cops, if the “Russian Roulette” story is all they managed to come up with, then maybe Kimberly Gardner cannot be blamed too much for not wanting them to testify in a court case in which, let’s say, the question is probable cause for stopping somebody and “finding” drugs on him.

    nk (dbc370)

  60. I think you have it backwards in a burg where mzz gardner rises up to the top, you end up full Gotham everytime.

    Narciso (82a663)

  61. Maybe there’s something in the water?

    nk (dbc370)

  62. Do we even know what department they worked for homicide narcotics et al

    Narciso (82a663)

  63. My impression is that they were all three patrolmen.

    nk (dbc370)

  64. In “Russian Roulette” You point the gun at yourself, not the other person.

    tissa (0d392a)

  65. They drink our and Minneapolis’ #1 and #2, nk….so imagine Memphis and New Orleans.

    urbanleftbehind (4d3585)

  66. The CBS Evening News had a story about this last night. They said there was (only) one bullet fired. But the story hete is thast there were.

    One change in the rules now is that a police officerr’s commanding officer is supposed to check where their people are once an hour. (they probably need other, smaller, and numerous changes)

    Sammy Finkelman (b0ece0)

  67. Thanks for the kind words. Just one bullet was fired, for clarity. I still find all this deeply worrisome.

    JRM (e725d8)

  68. @JRM You wrote:

    Supposedly, Hendren aimed the weapon away from Alix when he fired, and then Alix took it and pointed it at his head and dry-fired, and then Hendren took it back and shot her in the chest and then she died.`

    Since the second time it dry-fired, it sounds like the first time, it did not.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.3010 secs.