Autopsy Report Rules LAPD Officer's Training Death as Accidental

Autopsy Report Rules LAPD Officer's Training Death as Accidental
Los Angeles police officials arrive for a media briefing outside the police administration headquarters in this file photo. (Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images)
Jamie Joseph

The death of a Los Angeles police officer after a training incident earlier this year has been determined to have been accidental and caused by a cervical spinal cord injury, according to an autopsy report provided by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office to The Epoch Times on Aug. 1.

Houston Ryan Tipping, 32, was injured on May 26 during a training exercise, where he and another officer fell to the ground in a "bear hug" position, according to the report. Tipping died three days later.

The report states that it's possible the other officer involved landed on top of Tipping.

Before the report was released, the cause of the officer’s death had been surrounded by conflicting accounts from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and his family in the past two months.

Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in late June, claiming that her son was beaten to death in a “simulated mob attack” at the department’s Elysian Park Academy. She alleged that he was “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled,” according to the lawsuit.

To support these claims, her attorney, Bradley Gage, presented a set of CT scans and said the officer endured head lacerations, spinal cord injuries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and liver damage.

According to the autopsy report, those injuries occurred during a spinal surgery when Tipping was being treated in the hospital in the days following the incident.

Deputy Medical Examiner Lawrence Nguyen said in the report that the use of a clamp during the surgery resulted in a deep cut on Tipping’s head and that his rib fractures and liver lacerations were caused by a chest compression device used to resuscitate him.

According to the report, although a death “at the hands of another” is generally considered a homicide, there are some exceptions, including fatal incidents during organized sports or exercises in which participants are “consensual to committing potentially harmful acts and accept the inherent risks.”

The autopsy findings are largely consistent with the information previously provided by the LAPD.

“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,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said last month.

Moore has since called for a more thorough investigation by the department’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy that will provide more details on whether the training met statewide standards of safety.

Jamie is a California-based reporter covering issues in Los Angeles and state policies for The Epoch Times. In her free time, she enjoys reading nonfiction and thrillers, going to the beach, studying Christian theology, and writing poetry. You can always find Jamie writing breaking news with a cup of tea in hand.