LAPD report deems officer’s training death a ‘tragic accident’
The report counters claims made by the officer's mother, who has alleged her son was beaten in a scenario meant to “simulate a mob”
By Steven Rosenberg
Los Angeles Daily News
LOS ANGELES — The death of a Los Angeles police officer during a May 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 by the department’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy.
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.”
Lizabeth Rhodes, director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy, told the city Police Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 4, that Tipping died during a one-on-one exercise when he was playing the role of a suspect confronting a bicycle officer.
She described a scenario in which Tipping, portraying the suspect, aggressively attacked the trainee officer, who at one point struck 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 by putting his head “into that officer’s torso. 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.
“The coroner’s office determined that this was an accident, as did the department,” she said. “It was a tragic accident, and again we express our condolences.”
Asked about the allegation that Tipping had been attacked by a “mob” of officers, Rhodes said there was no evidence to support such a claim.
“I do realize that there are a number of allegations, for which we have not seen any evidence, out there,” Rhodes told the commission. “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.”
Tipping, 32, died May 29, three days after the training exercise at the LAPD’s Elysian Park Academy.
Although the department has repeatedly insisted Tipping’s death was an accident, Tuesday’s report is LAPD’s most detailed description of the circumstances of the officer’s death.
We mourn the loss of Police Officer II Houston Ryan Tipping, a five-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, assigned to Devonshire Division. On behalf of Communications Division we thank you for all of your hard work, commitment, and sacrifice. You are EOW KMA 367 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/EBqRBJYdeE— LAPD Communications Division (@911LAPD) June 23, 2022
LAPD Chief Michel Moore described the scenario for the Police Commission as well.
“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.”
Attorney Bradley Gage, who represents Tipping’s family, has disputed the LAPD’s description of the encounter, suggesting in the family’s damages claim that Tipping was severely beaten, requiring staples in his head because of lacerations suffered in the attack.
Rhodes noted in her report Tuesday that an autopsy listed a laceration on the side of Tipping’s scalp, which was caused from a clamp used during emergency surgery. She also said Tipping suffered rib injuries from CPR used in an attempt to revive him.
Rhodes’ report makes recommendations for improvements in future, similar exercises. But she noted that even if the recommendations had already been in place, they likely would not have prevented Tipping’s death.
Tipping was a five-year department veteran who worked out of the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.