LOS ANGELES – The mother of a Los Angeles Police Department officer who was fatally injured during a training class at the Elysian Park police academy sued the city Thursday, alleging the officer was targeted because of his knowledge about rape allegations against other officers.
Officer Houston Tipping, 32, died May 29, three days after the training exercise at the LAPD’s academy.
In her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, Shirley Huffman alleges wrongful death, battery, and whistleblower retaliation.
The LAPD, which does not comment on pending litigation, has repeatedly asserted that Tipping’s death was an accident that occurred during a grappling exercise. Chief Michel Moore previously dismissed claims that Tipping was targeted to cover up a rape report as “reckless allegations” that are “without foundation.”
A report recently released by the LAPD’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy concluded that Tipping’s death was a “tragic accident” that occurred when he and another officer fell to the ground while grappling during a simulation.
Lizabeth Rhodes, director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy, told the city Police Commission upon the report’s release that Tipping died during a one-on-one exercise in which 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 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 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 various 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.”
She said there was no evidence backing a contention that Tipping was beaten by multiple other officers in a scenario meant to “simulate a mob.”
The lawsuit, however, contends that Tipping last year took a report from a woman who alleged a sexual assault by one or more LAPD officers.
“Based upon information and belief, the officers engaged in the sexual assault had a motive to threaten and silence Officer Tipping to protect their careers and avoid potential felony convictions,” the suit states.
“The LAPD, and city of Los Angeles, are responsible for Officer Tipping’s injuries and wrongful death in part because after receiving reports of sexual assault, the officers who were accused of the dastardly deeds were not relieved of duty,” the suit states. “Moreover, the LAPD created the perfect opportunity to make Officer Tipping the victim of intentional acts of aggression.
“… Officer Tipping became the subject of an intentional battery at the hands of one or more fellow LAPD officers participating in the LAPD-sanctioned training exercise. One of more of the LAPD officers … were acting in the course and scope of their duties when they committed the intentional acts and battery on Officer Tipping.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages.