Los Angeles Times
A 32-year-old Los Angeles police officer who suffered fatal neck injuries during a department training last month had been getting beaten by other officers in an exercise meant to “simulate a mob,” according to a wrongful-death claim filed against the city by his mother.
Officer Houston Tipping suffered a spinal cord injury during the May 26 training at the police academy in Elysian Park and died three days later. He was laid to rest Wednesday during a large funeral attended by LAPD Chief Michel Moore, other police leaders and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, attended the funeral but did not speak at it. She filed her notice of claim against the city Friday, alleging wrongful death, assault and battery and other civil rights violations. Such claims are often a precursor to lawsuits.
Huffman alleged her son was “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled,” and that the beating resulted in injuries requiring stitches. He also suffered multiple breaks in his neck, which caused his death, the claim said.
Huffman also alleged that the training exercise “had already been questioned” before Tipping was hurt because of injuries suffered by other officers.
Capt. Kelly Muniz, an LAPD spokeswoman, said Friday that the department could not comment on the claim or the nature of the training exercise. But, she said, the department is taking the matter seriously and has launched its own investigation into the incident — in part to determine whether “there are any changes that need to be made” or lessons that may be learned.
“It is tragic and we’re all saddened by his loss,” Muniz said of Tipping, a five-year veteran of the force.
The LAPD has said Tipping was injured while “grappling” with an officer, and described his death as a horrible accident. But it has provided few other details.
Huffman’s claim calls for unspecified financial compensation, as well as punitive damages from the city. It also called for the city to preserve all evidence in the matter, including “videos of the entire training exercise and actions taken against Officer Tipping.”
Bradley Gage, an attorney for Huffman, said she did not wish to comment beyond what was in the claim. He said the allegations were based on interviews he has conducted with witnesses to the events and others with knowledge of them.
Gage said Tipping suffered injuries to two parts of his head and to four vertebrae.
Tipping had worked as a patrol officer in the Devonshire division, which covers Northridge, Reseda, Chatsworth and other parts of the north San Fernando Valley.
At the funeral, Moore knelt before Tipping’s parents and presented them with a folded American flag. Comments Moore made at the funeral were referenced by Huffman in her claim.
“Chief Moore stated that Officer Tipping impressed his peers with a ‘willingness to go the extra mile to make the world a better place,’” her claim stated. “Yet, that wasn’t enough to avoid other officers paralyzing him and eventually killing him in violation of law, and his civil rights.”
Other officers involved in the death have not been named.
(Los Angeles Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this article.)
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