LAPD officer killed in 'catastrophic' training accident laid to rest

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Los Angeles, California-June 22, 2022-A picture of Los Angeles Police Officer Houston R. Tipping is set on the deck where his memorial was held at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills on June 22, 2022. Family, friends, city officials and fellow officers gather at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills - Hall of Liberty Mosaic Deck for the funeral of LAPD officer Houston R. Tipping on June 22, 2022. Officer Tipping died after being injured in a training accident recently. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A picture of LAPD Officer Houston Tipping is displayed at his memorial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds gathered under a beating morning sun Wednesday to remember LAPD Officer Houston Tipping, a five-year department veteran, who suffered a fatal spinal injury during a training exercise at the Elysian Park Academy on May 26. He died three days later, at age 32.

The funeral started with a bagpipe procession at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, after mourners — ranging from relatives and fellow officers in their starched black uniforms to political luminaries such as Mayor Eric Garcetti and state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta — settled into their seats. One speaker after another remembered Tipping as a dedicated officer who'd gravitated to policing out of a desire to help others — and was quickly drawn in by the bonds he built with other officers.

Tipping's father, Richard, told mourners that "Houston was naturally kind, he generally cared about people," adding that he took comfort in hearing his son's colleagues recount how he always treated everyone with dignity. One time, after bringing a suspected drunk driver back to the police station, he waited around and patiently talked the woman through the booking process.

“She faced consequences, but he also [tried] to make sure that she experienced an officer’s humanity,” Richard Tipping said, his hands quivering as he turned the pages of his prepared statement.

His aunt, Cheryl Coons, recalled how her nephew first conveyed that he wanted to go into public service while attending a Fire Department graduation ceremony with his mother, Coons' sister. But when his mother asked whether he wanted to be a firefighter, he scoffed and replied that, no, he wanted to be a police officer. The crowd chuckled.

“Houston loved being a police officer, he loved the brotherhood, he loved the camaraderie,” Coons said.

Officials have revealed little about the circumstances leading to Tipping's death after a training scenario, during which he was grappling with a fellow officer when he fell to the ground and suffered a catastrophic injury to his spinal cord. LAPD Chief Michel Moore previously promised that the department would investigate the incident; it is not clear where that probe stands.

Tipping was taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights, where he died on the morning of May 29.

Born in Southern California, Tipping moved north to Chico, near where his mother spent her childhood. He never lost his love of wide open spaces or the outdoors, filling his days off hunting, fishing and hiking. He joined the LAPD in late 2017, after spending several years working for his father's company while in his 20s.

After a brief stint in the Foothills division out of the Academy, Tipping was assigned to work as a patrol officer in the Devonshire division, which covers Northridge, Reseda, Chatsworth and other parts of the north San Fernando Valley.

While older than most recruits when he joined the force, Tipping had impressed his peers with a "willingness to go the extra mile to make the world a better place," said Moore, noting that before his death he was closing in on a career milestone: He was set to receive his first hash mark, an insignia denoting every five years of service. “We will miss him but will never forget him.”

Tipping, he said, was the 238th LAPD officer to die in the line of duty in the department's history, a tally that includes officers who like him perished in training accidents.

Garcetti, whose term ends in December, urged mourners not to lose hope, drawing an analogy to the biblical account of Adam and Eve, who felt fear and uncertainty during their first night on Earth — not realizing that the sun would rise again the next day.

“It may feel to this family that the sun has gone down,” Garcetti told the mourners. “I must say, on behalf of 4 million grateful Angelenos, that the day is coming.”

As a light rain began to fall, Moore knelt before Tipping's parents and presented them with a folded American flag.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.