When it comes to tragedy, there surely can be no better place to have your heart broken or spirit crushed than by being associated with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
I don’t know if egregious misfortune is endemic to this police department, but it’s the only place I’ve ever worked as a police officer. I suspect most other major, urban departments have the same issues that we do.
There just seem to be so many.
It’s never a matter of if something stunning or unfortunate is going to happen, but rather when.
Long spells of quiet have always made me nervous, because that always means we’re due.
If it’s not a police shooting, it’s a cop’s young wife or child or the cop himself dying of cancer. If it’s not cancer, it’s a police officer having a heart attack or falling from a roof and dying, or blowing his brains out in the parking lot.
It’s just one awful thing after another.
Maybe part of the problem is that police officers don’t take just the local deaths to heart. Many of us feel it when another police officer is killed or dies tragically anywhere in the country, and for some, maybe the world.
We mourn for strangers we call brothers and sisters in a way that I don’t think other professionals do. Maybe it’s not healthy, but family is family.
When I posted last, I used a picture of a young lady who was shot and killed while responding to a mundane traffic accident call.
She was a police officer in California. She was young and appeared happy and had a bright future ahead of her, until she was gunned down by a lunatic for reasons I still don’t think we know for certain.
I remember being taken aback a little bit by the picture of this young lady, because she reminded me of one of my favorite St. Louis Police Officers, PO Katlyn Alix.
If you told me they were sisters, I’d have no reason to call you a liar.
Last night, Officer Alix was shot and killed, while she was off duty, in what is currently being called an accident.
I suspect that’s the best term for it, an accident. I have zero clue what happened at this point. I have no details about the shooting and I don’t want to dwell on that or what I think the fallout might or should be, depending on what happened, instead, this is just a post about my friend to help me move on.
I met Officer Alix when I was teaching law at the Police Academy. Back then she was recruit Alix.
I was her class’s supervisor, which meant that I would basically help guide them, begrudgingly at times for all of us, through their thirty weeks of training, until they graduated into police officers.
She was one of thirty-nine in her class on that first day in June, 2016.
I recall she was quiet and shy, or at least she acted that way back then. I think she wanted to fly under the radar and just get through unnoticed.
That’s how the good ones get through the Academy, quiet and unassuming.
I had other ideas, however. She was or acted almost too bashful, so I appointed her the assistant class president, along with another young lady who served as president.
I chose Recruit Alix because I knew she’d been in the military, so she wasn’t soft. She would stand up to the other recruits on my behalf and put her foot in their rear ends, were that necessary.
There was something about her that told me she was a good egg and that she would be a good recruit. We have to compile all of the recruits’ personal information when they start, so I knew she was also a Pisces, like me.
I only remember that because she was born on the same date as a grade school friend of mine, Mark Martinez, March 12th. I remember Mark’s birthday because we shared our class parties during our time in grade school together. He was born on the 12th and another girl, Jeanie, the 31st. She also shared in the March party.
Oddly, Mark also died way too young. He was shot and killed when he was just seventeen in the old McRee Town Neighborhood, which would later be the first area I would patrol as a brand new police officer.
Recruit Alix sailed through the Academy with little problem. She was athletic and smart. She was inquisitive and asked good questions.
She stood out in a final recruit class of twenty-six very good recruits at graduation. I knew that she was going to be a special police officer.
Officer Alix wanted to go where the action was, and got her wish when she was assigned to the Sixth District.
If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ll know that the Sixth District is where I patrolled for a few years and where most of my terrible stories come from.
On duty, Officer Alix was assertive yet compassionate. She understood, early on, really, the human aspect of this job and she empathized with people she saw everyday who were struggling to survive, let alone live.
She’d mentioned to me a few times that she didn’t understand it, the blight and despair, but she wanted so badly to help.
She once posted a picture on Facebook of herself in uniform; she was holding a baby in her arms and wrote a long post about the baby’s mother’s struggle with heroin. I don’t remember the details, but I remember I was in my patrol car when I read it and was so moved by it that I texted her right away to tell her how proud I was of her.
She was made to remove that post by her commander, because God forbid a young officer show any heart or compassion about this job on social media. She was told her post violated HIPAA, which is complete garbage, as police officers aren’t subject to HIPAA. Please tell me, if I’m wrong about that.
Anyway, it was so moving and just showed the sort of person she was, even in uniform.
In spite of the oftentimes depressing surroundings, Officer Alix knew how to have fun with the job, which is important, if you want to do it for any extended time.
She also loved her dog, who I suddenly feel terribly sorry for as I type this right now, because nobody will ever be able to love that puppy like she did, no matter how hard they might try. She loved him like only those people who are just so goddam good hearted and sweet can love an animal. You know the type. They’re just special human beings.
Once, before she graduated from the Academy, she came to me and asked rather sheepishly if I knew anybody who wanted a dog.
It was a weird question under normal circumstances, but even weirder then because my mom had literally told me less than a week earlier that my dad wanted a dog.
He wanted a little dog. I think maybe it was another midlife thing.
Anyway, her mom had found this dog on the side of a roadway all matted, lost and confused, but they couldn’t keep it because her mom had a dog already and get this….monkeys.
THEY HAD MONKEYS IN THEIR HOUSE!
When Recruit Alix first told me that she had a brother and sister who were monkeys, I didn’t know what to make of that info, so I let it go. It turns out that they’re literally monkeys, sort of like Ross from the show Friends had.
Anyway, they couldn’t keep the dog and my parents couldn’t have been anymore interested, so we made a match.
I drove a ways to get the dog and got to meet Katlyn’s mom. She was a sweet woman and, of course, mentioned that she worried about her daughter’s safety.
I never assure anybody that their son or daughter will be fine, because with this job, you never know. We talked a bit about how Katlyn had the tools to be better than most officers, and I think we parted ways with her feeling better about her daughter’s future venture into North St. Louis.
The dog has made my folks imminently happier for whatever reason, and I’ll be forever grateful to Katlyn for that.
I would send her a pic of the dog from time to time, because I knew it made her happy to see Tennessee Whiskey Hangover (Tenny for short) doing well.
Officer Alix was a friend to many. She was a daughter, a wife, a sister and a super proud aunt to a handsome little guy she loved with all her might.
She served her country in the Army and the St. Louis community as a police officer. She squeezed more into her twenty-four years than many of us will into our whole lives.
Her death really sucks.
This one stings, perhaps maybe more than any other in my twenty years of SLMPD deaths.
I used to only jokingly call my recruits my babies, but the truth is that I did and do still care for all of them, all of you, since I know some of you will read this.
I hope, if you’re a police officer, and you’re grieving, you will think about what you wished you could have said to Katlyn, if you had the chance, and make sure you say those same sorts of things to those who are important to you that you still can say them to.
Godspeed, young lady.