LAPD Officer Killed in Training ‘Accident’ Was Investigating Gang Rape by 4 Other Officers

Officer Houston Tipping died in May in what the LAPD called a tragic accident. His family's lawyer has been contesting these claims for months.

LAPD Officer Killed in Training ‘Accident’ Was Investigating Gang Rape by 4 Other Officers
Los Angeles Police Department officers carry the Officer Houston R. Tipping’s casket at the beginning of his memorial service in June. Photo:Carolyn Cole (AP)

The lawyer of a Los Angeles police officer killed in what the LAPD called a training accident back in May said the officer, Houston Tipping, had been investigating an alleged gang rape perpetrated by four LAPD officers in 2021 when he was killed. Tipping’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed on Monday that one of the four officers who allegedly participated in the gang rape was present when Tipping was killed.

“The victim claimed that she was raped by four different people, all LAPD officers. She knew the names of some of those officers because they were in uniform and they had their name tags on,” Gage said on Monday, in footage from Sean Beckner-Carmitchel for Knock LA. “That name of one of those officers with the name tag seems to correlate with one of the officers that was at the bicycle training.”

“You’re alleging that that officer is the one who hurt the victim, but you’re not confirming or alleging that there might have been other officers who jumped in?” one reporter asked Gage, who responded, “I cannot allege that, because I only have known facts.”

Another reporter asked the lawyer why so much time had passed between the alleged gang rape, which Gage said took place in July 2021, and Tipping’s death, if the motive involve Tipping investigating the rape. Gage replied, “Opportunity, an investigation, learning of knowledge?”

Gage disputed the LAPD’s account of Tipping’s death back in July, contesting the department’s claim that Tipping had died an accidental death while serving as a bicycling instructor at a training exercise. The attorney claims instead that Tipping was beaten to death by fellow officers.

In June, speaking at a police commission meeting, LAPD chief Michael Moore claimed Tipping had not suffered “any laceration to the head,” and stood by the department’s story that his death had come about as an accident. Per the LAPD, while Tipping was giving a demonstration that involved grappling from a high height with another officer, both fell to the ground, “resulting in a catastrophic injury to Tipping’s spinal cord.” The other officer did not die.

At a July news conference, Gage showed reporters MRI scans revealing that Tipping had staples in his head due to the injuries he sustained leading up to his death. Gage also cited sworn declarations from a nurse and a paramedic and alleged that Tipping had suffered spinal cord injuries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and liver damage consistent with being fatally beaten. “When you look at all these horrific injuries, the truth is something went seriously wrong here,” Gage said. “I cannot fathom anything other than a severe beating.”

In June, Gage first filed a damages claim against the LAPD on behalf of Tipping’s mother, Shirley Huffman, alleging that he had been beaten to death as part of a training exercise to “simulate a mob.” According to the claim filed by Gage, Tipping died after being repeatedly hit in the head, causing bleeding and multiple fatal neck fractures.

Gage and the LAPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Gage’s Monday claims.

The allegations against the LAPD suggesting officers may have killed Tipping because of his investigation come amid years of whistleblowing and reports about “shadow-gangs” within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. These gangs allegedly comprise a sort of shadow government within local law enforcement to cover up officers’ crimes. As of July, at roughly the same time Gage and the LAPD were disputing the circumstances that led to Tipping’s death, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s former chief of staff publicly admitted he’d once belonged to the alleged “Grim Reaper” deputy gang within the county sheriff’s department.

In August 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors paid a $5.5 million settlement to a young woman who said a LA County Sheriff’s Department had raped her in 2017 when she was 15. The detective in question had faced two prior allegations of sexual misconduct that included committing a lewd act with a child and unlawful sexual intercourse. The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the LAPD’s history of systematically declining to discipline officers for sex crimes and then concealing these crimes from the public.

Acts of sexual and domestic violence perpetrated by police officers aren’t uncommon, despite how protecting rape victims is frequently, inappropriately cited as a reason police need more funding. Just last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that a New Port Richey police officer faced no charges for sexually assaulting a teen in his custody in July. And it wasn’t until earlier this year that Congress finally passed a law to close a loophole that had for years allowed officers to rape people in their custody with impunity by simply claiming encounters were consensual.

If true, Gage’s allegations about Tipping’s death and the alleged gang rape that Tipping may have been investigating are part of a chilling pattern of law enforcement officers abusing their power to not only commit sexual crimes, but cover them up and shield each other from accountability.

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