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IHRSA Guest Speakers: Kristina Ripatti & Tim Pearce

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Kristina Ripatti - 10 Year Veteran, Los Angeles Police Department
Tim Pearce - Police Officer, Los Angeles Police Department

Transforming Lives: An ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ Success Story

On June 3, 2006, Kristina Ripatti, a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, was shot twice by a man she and her partner were pursuing. With one of the bullets severing her spine, the 33-year-old Ripatti – also a wife, mother, athlete and avid fitness enthusiast – was paralyzed from the chest down and facing life in a wheelchair.

That same year Ripatti’s story caught the attention of ABC’s "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and in late 2006, Ripatti, her husband, Tim Pearce, also an LAPD officer, and three-year-old daughter, Jordan, were featured on an episode of the popular television program. In the three years since her injury, Ripatti has transformed her life, armed with a fierce determination and the support of family and friends.

Her biggest supporter, Pearce, joins Ripatti as they share their inspiring story and discuss the critical role exercise and fitness played in her recovery, provide insight into the importance of the mind-body connection, and describe the need for rehabilitation programs and services for special populations. Ripatti and Pearce have now taken on a new mission to educate club operators and equipment providers on the simple modifications needed within facilities and with exercise products to accommodate the needs of individuals faced with the same challenges she faces on a day-to-day basis.

Kristina Ripatti has always lived her life with a grit and determination that has allowed her to overcome its obstacles. She has constantly challenged herself to be the best and work the hardest at every goal that she has set for herself. She thrived under the intense competition of collegiate soccer and after graduation she joined the elite and demanding ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Ripatti chose to work as a gang unit officer on patrol in infamous South Central Los Angeles. For 11 years she faced the demands of dealing with gangs, violence and drugs, contributing in a way that she thought would have the most impact on public safety. She enjoyed her work and did not realize that she was about to face life’s biggest test yet.

A routine investigation of a suspicious person suddenly went all wrong when the suspect pulled a gun and shot her three times. One of those bullets narrowly missed her body armor coming to rest in her spinal column. Through the heroic efforts of fellow officers, paramedics and surgeons, Ripatti survived and awoke in the hospital facing the devastating news that she was now a T2 paraplegic paralyzed from the chest down.

The things that had defined Ripatti’s life - policing and athletics - were gone. Even the most mundane daily tasks’ had become seemingly insurmountable. There were the inevitable moments of self-pity, anger and doubt, but there was also the support of family, friends and comrades. Ripatti drew strength from her husband Tim Pearce, also a police officer, and baby daughter Jordan. Slowly she once again began doing what she has always done - setting goals for herself.

Rehabilitation progressed and she began to adjust to the everyday demands of life as a paraplegic. It was time for new challenges and Ripatti set about pursuing them with the same energy and resolve she had used before she was shot.

She once again turned to athletics and started daily workouts that included weight training and swimming. With the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation she began training with a handcycle and successfully completed the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Ripatti has also given birth to a son, Lucas, and enjoys surfing, fishing and off-roading with her husband and family. She has begun graduate level course work in Communications and volunteers with Operation Progress, an organization founded by a fellow officer that is dedicated to providing scholarships to inner city youth.

Timothy Pearce grew up in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and before becoming a police officer, worked in construction from age 18 until he was 27 years old. Seeking a career that offered both mental and physical challenges, as well as adventure, he turned toward law enforcement and graduated from the Los Angeles police academy in September of 1996. Since joining the police force, Pearce’s assignments have encompassed three LAPD patrol divisions in Central and South Los Angeles including LAPD’s Central Division, Southwest Division and Southeast Division.

In 1998, Pearce transferred to Southwest Division located in the Crenshaw district and near the LA Coliseum. He worked night watch patrol with his partner, and future wife, Officer Kristina Ripatti. Both Pearce and Ripatti were assigned to the Gang Intelligence Unit, Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (C.R.A.S.H), where they monitored the activities of the Rolling 30s Harlem Crips street gang. They both discovered their calling on the job and worked this assignment for approximately 15 months, arresting over 80 members of the gang until the CRASH units were disbanded. As partners, they shared a passion for the job, especially working the gangs of South LA, but they quickly became friends off-duty as they shared many common interests including surfing, fishing, desert motorcycle riding and adventure traveling. Pearce and Ripatti married in 2003 and became parents of a daughter in 2005 and a son in 2008.

In 2002, Pearce transferred to Southeast Division located in the community of Watts while Ripatti remained at Southwest. There, he was assigned to the Southeast Gang Enforcement Unit where he has worked for the past 4-1/2 years. Pearce is currently working Southeast Gang Detectives' CLEAR Unit, focusing on the Grape Street Crips street gang.

In 2004, Pearce was also a guest host of Peter Jennings' ABC World News’ one-hour special report, “LAPD: Protect and Serve” that aired on June 1, 2004. Peter Jennings, ABC producers and camera crew spent one year on patrol with Pearce and his partner Officer Scotty Stevens, videotaping and interviewing Officers Pearce and Stevens as they investigated the gang patrols in LAPD’s Southeast Division Watts.

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Media: Press

News Articles
Daily News (2006, 2007-2008, 2009, 2010)
LA Times: 2010 (March), 2010 (April)

Magazines
New Mobility
Advance
Club Business International

News
CBS: Channel 2 Laura Diaz special series
Local CBS, ABC, NBC (2006, 2008, 2009)

Television
Extreme Makeover Home edition (2006, 2007, 2009)
(Ripatti Family, 100th episode special, Marshall Family)
DOVE Soap/Oprah Winfrey

Race Across America

ESPN.com

Network News
ABC News, Washington, DC
ABC News, Los Angeles
NBC News, Los Angeles
CBS News, Los Angeles
KCAL9 News, Los Angeles
CBS News, San Diego
CBS News, Fresno
CBS 12 News, Santa Maria
CW News, San Diego

Radio
KNX1070 Newsradio

Print Media
Daily News
Washington Examiner
San Jose Mercury News
San Diego Union Tribune
North County Times
Contra Costa Times
Daily Breeze
LA Observed
LAist
Washington Examiner Blotter