An LAPD officer who was investigating gang rape by colleagues died in a May 26 training accident where at least one of those officers was present. It must have been one heck of an accident, as the officer, 32-year-old Houston Tipping, suffered a variety of injuries, according to the family’s attorney, Bradley Gage:
Tipping became paralyzed after suffering three broken ribs, a lacerated liver, head injuries and a broken neck, Gage said Monday.
“He had subdural hematomas at three places on the left side and three places on the right side. There is no way that grappling would have caused those injuries the way the LAPD portrayed it.”
The LAPD countered with a report showing how a training exercise could lead to such damage, and Tipping’s death has been ruled a “tragic accident.” The plot thickens, however, as it turns out that Tipping was investigating four of his colleagues for gang rape and was about to reveal damaging information. Now his family is charging that the accident was actually murder:
Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, has filed a claim alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations, saying he was “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled,” and that he suffered multiple breaks in his neck, causing his death.
LAPD officer Houston Tipping died after a training exercise during which he was beaten & slammed to the ground by other cops. Now his lawyer says at the time he died he was investigating a gang rape by 4 cops, at least one of whom was part of the exercise. pic.twitter.com/hah4hztyx2
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) October 4, 2022
Interestingly, there is no video footage of the incident. Lizabeth Rhodes, director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy gave a detailed explanation of the exercise and how it went horribly wrong:
“Officer Tipping then lifted the officer, the student officer, from the ground and (a) student officer’s arm went around Officer Tipping’s neck, wrapping towards the front of Officer Tipping’s neck and throat,” Rhodes said. “As the two fell to the floor, Officer Tipping’s neck remained in that grasp.”
She said other officers in the training session immediately realized Tipping was injured and “appeared to be struggling to speak,” leading to first-aid efforts while paramedics were called.
Police Chief Michel Moore also rejected the family’s claims while speaking to the LAPD’s Board of Police Commissioners in June. On Wednesday he reiterated that position in a tweet:
An absolutely baseless claim that follows repeated falsehoods by this attorney. Officer Tipping lost his life following a tragic accident. His dedicated service deserves more. My deepest condolences to his family, friends & partners. https://t.co/rTNaukaimN
— Chief Michel Moore (@LAPDChiefMoore) October 5, 2022
Gage wasn’t buying that explanation:
His complaint describes a beating so severe that Tipping’s neck was broken at different vertebral levels. “I don’t understand how he could have all the different types of serious injuries that he had — except for being beaten to death,” Gage said in an interview with the [Los Angeles] Daily News. “It’s just impossible. It’s just too many.”
Asked how Tipping’s mother is coping with the tragedy, Gage said: “What can any mother do when their son was apparently beaten to death and murdered? It’s a horrible loss.”
This story immediately arouses suspicions, and the police chief’s explanation along with the revelation of Tipping’s potential whistleblowing raises questions. Training is important, and by its very nature, it involves some degree of risk if officers are to be fully prepared to patrol the mean streets of LA. That being said, the LAPD should at the very least investigate their methods because such horrific wounds should never occur during training. In the meantime, the Tipping family’s claim will continue, and perhaps we’ll find out if it was just an unfortunate accident, or whether something more sinister transpired.