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Disturbing video shows hobbled suspect upside down in Aurora police officer's car for 20 minutes

Fired officer seeking job back
Posted at 9:09 PM, Oct 01, 2020

AURORA, Colo. -- Disturbing body cam video shows a detainee, whose ankles and wrists are hobbled together, slide off the seat of a squad car and land upside down, remaining in that position for more than 20 minutes.

The Aurora police officer who failed to heed her cries for help was fired, and is now asking for his job back.

"I'm sorry, it was a mistake, but I had no clue she was in an inverted position in the back seat of my car," Levi Huffine told Civil Service Commissioners Thursday.

Huffine arrested Shataeah Kelly on August 27, 2019, following a fight in the park area adjacent to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at 9898 E. Colfax.

He placed the handcuffed suspect in the back of his patrol car and buckled the seat belt. She apparently unbuckled herself and started moving around in the back seat, kicking the inside of the car. Huffine then removed the suspect, hobbled her and placed her back inside.

During transport to the detention facility, Kelley slid off the front seat, head first, and ended up upside down.

"Hey, my head is about to break bro, my neck is about to break bro," she told the officer.

She pleaded for help, which wasn't forthcoming.

"Okay, I'm gonna just die like this. All I ask is to be lifted up. Please lift me up officer," she said.

Huffine kept driving.

It's about a five-mile trip from the library at Colfax and Emporia to the detention center near Alameda and Sable.

"It hurts so bad. It hurts so bad," Kelly said, screaming in apparent pain.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson was not happy that Huffine didn't pay attention to the detainee's screams for help.

"I'm sure it has people questioning if this is how we treat everyone," she said at the hearing.

When asked if the incident hurts the department, Wilson said it did.

"It's an embarrassment, and I know there are other officers who are angered by what they saw and are embarrassed as well," she said.

Wilson said the decision to fire Huffine was based on the severity of the incident, and his lack of humanity, remorse and understanding that what he did was wrong.

Huffine told the commission that the Chief's comments amounted to character assassination.

Assistant Aurora City Attorney P. Morales mentioned the changes underway across the country.

He said, "This is an American, an Aurora, an Aurora Police Department moment."

Morales said all Huffine had to do (to follow department policy) was "glance over his shoulder...and he would have seen she was in the wrong position."

Huffine had earlier told the Commission, "it's impossible for me to see a prisoner who is on the floorboard of my vehicle."

The fired officer's attorney, Carrie Slinkard, said there are a lot of things we don't know, but what we do know is that she (Kelley) "made it to jail without injury to her neck, without injury to lungs. There was no loss of consciousness, there's no marks on her body."

Slinkard talked hypotheticals.

"Imagine what would happen if you stopped the car to help her, and she's fine at that point, but gets injured while being moved," Slinkard said. "It is absolutely a certainty that had that occurred, we would be sitting here before you right now on allegations of excessive force for my client having re-engaged with a secured prisoner, and caused injury to someone who could not defend themselves."

The Civil Service Commission will issue a written decision on whether Huffine gets his job back.

That process usually takes two weeks.