LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The death of a Los Angeles Police Department officer during a training exercise was “a tragic accident” that occurred when he and another officer fell to the ground while grappling during a simulation, according to a report released Tuesday by the department.
The report countered claims made by an attorney for Officer Houston Tipping’s mother, who filed a damages claim against the city alleging in part that the officer was beaten by multiple other officers in a scenario meant to “simulate a mob.”
The attorney representing Tipping’s family on Monday alleged that Tipping had made a report about a sexual assault involving several officers before his death. The attorney claimed that Tipping was intentionally attacked during the exercise as an act of retaliation because he had filed the report.
The 32-year-old was paralyzed in the training exercise back in May and died three days later. The LAPD has said it was an accident, but Tipping’s mother has since filed a wrongful death claim.
Brad Gage, the family’s attorney, suggested that one of the officers involved in that alleged rape was in the training class in which Tipping was fatally injured, and may have been the one who grappled with Tipping.
“You have to understand why would they do that, where is the motivation?”
“When you have information that the motivation comes from an alleged sexual assault, it’s being investigated by Officer Tipping, now you understand why,” Gage said Monday. “You have a situation where officers are going to be interested in at least scaring Officer Tipping to prevent him from carrying out this investigation, where they could get prosecuted criminally, and or lose their jobs.”
Tipping’s family believes he was beaten to death during that training but the county medical examiner said his death was an accident and that his injuries were a result of the measures taken to save his life.
Mother claims LAPD officer was fatally beaten in training exercise meant to ‘simulate a mob’
The LAPD discussed the investigation at a Police Commission meeting on Tuesday.
An internal investigation into the death of Tipping revealed the five-year-veteran died following a bicycle-patrol training exercise accident.
Lizabeth Rhodes, director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy, told the city Police Commission on Tuesday that Tipping died during a one-on-one exercise in which he was playing the role of a suspect confronting a bicycle officer.
Family seeking more answers about LAPD officer who died after injury during training accident
“… This was not a mob attack, as has been alleged, rather (a one-on-one scenario) which was Officer Tipping playing the role as a suspect in order to help officers learn how to deal with that one individual,” Rhodes said.
She said the scenario had ran 10 times before Tipping was chosen to play the suspect.
She described a scenario in which Tipping, portraying the suspect, aggressively attacked the trainee officer, who at one point strikes Tipping in a leg with a foam baton. The strike caused no injury, but Tipping reacted “as he was supposed to in this scenario by going down on one knee to simulate a successful baton strike.”
She said Tipping then re-engaged the other officer.
“Officer Tipping then lifted the officer, the student officer, from the ground and the student officer’s arm went around Officer Tipping’s neck, wrapping toward the front of Officer Tipping’s cheek and throat. As the two fell to the floor Officer Tipping’s neck remained in that grasp,” Rhodes said.
She said other officers in the training session immediately realized Tipping was injured and “appeared to be struggling to speak,” leading to various first-aid efforts while paramedics were called.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore described the scenario for the Police Commission.
“Officer Tipping is bent forward. The other officer is facing Officer Tipping,” Moore said. “As Officer Tipping hugs him or grabs him, according to witness accounts, and lifts the officer off the ground, the officer in a reaction places his arm — drapes it around the backside of Officer Tipping at about his neck. And then those officers then fall, two of them. In falling and in coming in contact with the ground, that’s where the injury occurred.”
Tipping, 32, died May 29, three days after the training exercise at the LAPD’s Elysian Park academy.
The coroner ruled Tipping’s death an accident. The autopsy report states he died from a spinal cord injury, and he suffered a cut to his head and fractured ribs while officers tried to save his life.
“The coroner’s office determined that this was an accident, as did the department,” Rhodes said. “It was a tragic accident and again we express our condolences.”
Meanwhile, Gage said the next step is for L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón to begin an independent investigation.
“If the facts show that there was nothing done intentionally, great. Then that will be the end of the investigation,” Gage said. “If they find that something was done intentionally, then people should be held accountable.”
Rhodes made recommendations to make the bicycle patrol school better, like adding safety briefings before each exercise, but she added these recommendations would most likely not have prevented Tipping’s death.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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