A Los Angeles police officer died from injuries he received in a training accident but wasn’t beaten by fellow officers as his mother alleges, according to the autopsy report.
Houston Tipping, 32, suffered a spinal cord injury after he fell down while holding another officer in a “bear hug” while acting as instructor during a May 26 exercise at the Police Academy, according to the June 8 report from the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner’s department.
According to witness statements and records cited in the report, Tipping was engaging in a “face-to-face bear hug” with a student during the training exercise when both fell. Tipping was “brought down on his head,” fell onto a hard mat “with not a lot of padding,” and the other student may have landed on top of him.
But the document also says there was a report that Tipping was dropped on his head.
Tipping fractured his neck, according to the report. He died three days later after developing a brain injury because of cell death from lack of oxygen.
The death was ruled an accident caused by “brain death secondary to anoxic brain injury.”
In a wrongful death claim filed against the city, Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, has alleged that her son was beaten in the head by other officers in an exercise meant to “simulate a mob.”
LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore has denied that claim.
Brad Gage, an attorney for the Tipping family, noted that Tipping had bleeding and swelling of his head along with other injuries and said whatever happened “doesn’t seem to be part of a training exercise that was accidental.”
“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.. it just doesn’t made sense,” he said.
The coroner’s report said Tipping did have other injuries, but they were caused by efforts to save his life. They included a cut on his scalp from a clamp used during surgery and fractured ribs that appeared related to efforts to resuscitate him.
Gage said he plans to sue. The attorney said he is “extremely skeptical” of the conclusions of the coroner’s report and wants to obtain more information, including autopsy photos and possible video of the training incident. He urged witnesses to come forward.