Los Angeles, CA – The attorney representing the mother of a Los Angeles police officer who died after suffering neck injuries during a training session in May has alleged the officer was targeted because he was investigating sexual assault case involving four other Los Angeles cops.
Brad Gage, the lawyer representing Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Houston Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, said on Monday that Officer Tipping died after a fellow officer he was investigating in connection with the sexual assault injured him during a grappling exercise, CBS News reported.
Gage said the alleged sexual assault occurred 10 months before Officer Tipping’s death and that Officer Tipping was the one who wrote up the report implicating the four fellow officers, according to KTTV.
“In July of 2021, four police officers were involved in a sexual assault of a woman,” he told reporters on Monday. “A report was taken by Officer Tipping – and I’ve seen that report – and that report indicates that there was a sexual attack and indicates that an object was placed into the sexual organ of the female victim.”
Gage said that according to the report, the female victim said she was “raped by four different people – all LAPD officers,” and that she was able to name some of them because they were in uniform and wearing nametags at the time of the alleged assault.
One of the officers she allegedly identified “seems to correlate with one of the officers that was at the bicycle training,” he said.
“You’re alleging that that officer is the one who hurt Houston Tipping?” one of the reporters asked.
“Correct,” Gage responded.
“But you’re not confirming or alleging that there might have been other officers who jumped in,” the reporter added.
“No, I cannot allege that because I don’t have enough facts to say that one way or another yet,” Gage told him.
Another reporter then asked why there was such a span of time between the allegations of the sexual assault being made and the incident in which the officer was fatally injured.
“Opportunity and the investigation and learning of knowledge,” Gage responded.
The attorney claimed Officer Tipping was targeted in retaliation for being a whistleblower and that the LAPD has attempted to cover up the alleged rape investigation, CBS News reported.
“LAPD claims in Public Records Act requests that there was no incident report at all,” Gage told the news outlet.
He further alleged that the LAPD is lying about not having video footage of the training that took place the day of Officer Tipping’s death.
“LAPD claims that there was no video taken of the training this day,” he said. “We don’t believe that’s accurate.”
It is unclear why Gage believes such footage exists.
Huffman previously alleged that her son was beaten to death by fellow officers during a training exercise intended to “simulate a mob,” KTLA reported.
The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office determined the 32-year-old officer death was accidental.
According to an autopsy report, Officer Tipping was acting as an instructor during an exercise at the Elysian Park Academy on May 26 and was holding another officer in a “face-to-face bear hug” when the injuries occurred, KTLA reported.
Officer Tipping and the student both fell during the grappling exercise, resulting in Officer Tipping being “brought down on his head” onto a mat that did not have much padding, according to the report.
The student also possibly landed on him, KTLA reported.
A police sergeant who was at the training said Officer Tipping was heard breathing for several seconds after the impact and that he then began gasping for air, CBS News reported.
He stopped breathing shortly thereafter.
Additional officers immediately began CPR until emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, CBS News reported.
Officer Tipping was resuscitated after three minutes and was rushed to L.A. County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Doctors determined he suffered a spinal cord injury and a fractured neck, according to the report.
They fused his spine and took multiple CT scans, but the young officer had developed an anoxic brain injury due to a lack of oxygen, CBS News reported.
Doctors declared the five-year department veteran brain dead on May 28, and Officer Tipping passed away on May 29 after organ donation.
According to the report, his death was ruled an accident caused by “brain death secondary to anoxic brain injury,” KTLA reported.
Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Lawrence Nguyen said Officer Tipping did have a laceration to the left side of his scalp, which he noted was caused by the use of a c-clamp during a spinal surgery, CBS News reported.
Nguyen said the officer also suffered fractured ribs, but that those injuries were caused by a LUCAS device, which “provides mechanical chest compressions and has been known to cause rib fractures and liver lacerations,” according to the report.
“The manner of death was carefully considered and weighed between homicide and accident,” the medical examiner wrote. “While deaths ‘at the hands of another’ are typically deemed homicides, there are exceptions that are deemed accidents.”
Examples of such exceptions include football players who suffer broken necks during tackles or boxing deaths, CBS News reported.
“These deaths occur during organized sports or organized exercises in which the participants are consensual to committing potentially harmful acts and accept inherent risks,” Nguyen said. “Therefore, I have deemed the manner of death in this case to be an accident.”
But Gage alleged on Monday that a LUCAS device was never used in the attempts to save Officer Tipping’s life that day, CBS News reported.
“The problem with that is other medical reports show the LUCAS device was never used,” he declared.
Gage admitted that he has not conducted dispositions on any of the paramedics who responded to the scene after the officer was injured, but said he does have “statements” he has “obtained from various sources,” CBS News reported.
The LAPD declined to comment on Gage’s allegations due to the ongoing litigation, according to the news outlet.
Officer Tipping was laid to rest on June 22 during a large ceremony attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAPD Chief Michel Moore, and other LAPD leaders, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Huffman filed a notice of claim against the city two days later.
Such claims are generally precursors to lawsuits.
Huffman’s claim alleged her son was severely beaten during a training exercise intended to “simulate a mob,” and that he was “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
In addition to needing stitches for the lacerations he suffered, Officer Tipping’s neck was also broken in multiple places, according to the claim.
Huffman said her son died as a result of those breaks.
She said other officers had been hurt during the same training module in the past and that the exercise “had already been questioned” due to those concerns, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Gage said he does not believe the fatal incident was an accident, CBS News reported.
“Why was Houston Tipping picked up and slammed onto his head?” Gage asked. “That can’t be part of any type of training because it’s so dangerous.”
He said the facility also should have utilized more mats to “protect from serious injuries,” CBS News reported.
He and Huffman maintain that Officer Tipping was beaten to death.
“Police are… to help protect and serve us all,” Gage told CBS News. “We certainly don’t want to see a police officer needlessly injured or in this case killed.”
“It is inconceivable that there would be a simple wrestling match that would lead to head injury, multiple broken neck bones, liver damage, three broken ribs,” he told the Associated Press. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Huffman’s claim alleged assault and battery, wrongful death, and other civil rights violations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Chief Moore stated that Officer Tipping impressed his peers with a ‘willingness to go the extra mile to make the world a better place,’” Huffman’s 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.”
She will be seeking punitive damages, as well as unspecified financial compensation.