An attorney representing the family of a Los Angeles Police Department officer who died in what was deemed a training accident disputed Tuesday the police chief’s account of the incident, claiming again the officer endured a severe beating.
Speaking at a news conference in Woodland Hills, attorney Bradley Gage said the “explanation from the LAPD is untrue” regarding the death of Officer Houston Ryan Tipping.
Tipping died May 29, three days after the training accident at the LAPD’s Elysian Park academy. Police said previously that Tipping was working as a bike instructor in a scenario that involved grappling with another officer.
According to the LAPD, during the exercise, Tipping fell to the floor and suffered a spinal cord injury. Other officers present initiated CPR until Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics arrived, police said.
Last month, Gage filed a damages claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — on behalf of Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, alleging that Tipping was beaten by fellow officers in an exercise designed to “simulate a mob.” The claim alleges that Tipping was repeatedly struck in the head, causing him to bleed, and suffered multiple neck fractures that led to his death.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore disputed the allegation during last week’s Police Commission meeting.
“Officer Tipping did not sustain any laceration to the head, any cut or otherwise to his head, as a result of his fall to the ground when he and another officer during a training exercise fell to the ground,” Moore told the commission. “Officer Tipping was also not struck or beaten during this training session. He did grapple with another officer, and both fell to the ground, resulting in a catastrophic injury to his spinal cord.
“As a parent myself, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering, the grief that Officer Tipping’s mother and his entire family is going through. We also grieve in his tragic death and I’m committed to ensuring that the investigation is comprehensive in understanding how this accident occurred and what added safeguards or other steps can be taken to ensure that it’s never experienced again.”
On Tuesday, Gage held a news conference to dispute Moore’s statements. He showed reporters MRI images and said Tipping had staples in his head due to the injuries he sustained.
“All these little items here, six of them, are staples,” Gage said, pointing to the image. “Staples are utilized in order to close a laceration in the head.”
The attorney said he also had sworn declarations from a nurse and a paramedic who confirmed the presence of the staples and said the officer was bleeding from the head.
Gage also said Tipping suffered spinal cord injuries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and liver damage.
“When you look at all these horrific injuries, the truth is something went seriously wrong here,” Gage said. “I cannot fathom anything other than a severe beating.”
The 32-year-old Tipping is survived by his parents, Richard and Shirley; his stepfather Bob; his siblings Kat and Tyler; and his girlfriend, Brittany.
The five-year department veteran worked out of the LAPD’s Devonshire Division.