Recorded on police body cam and surveillance videos ignoring a handcuffed and hogtied female arrestee as she pleaded for help, a Colorado police officer was fired earlier this year for appearing to punish the woman. The Aurora Police Department released the footage of the incident on Tuesday in connection to a recent appeal hearing for the former officer.
Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on August 27, 2019, Shataean Kelly was arrested for allegedly fighting with another woman. After placing Kelly in the backseat of a patrol car, Officer Levi Huffine noticed her attempting to open the backdoors even though arrestees are unable to unlock the doors from inside the vehicle.
According to Officer Huffine’s body cam video, he told another officer that he would “hobble” Kelly for attempted escape before the officers abruptly removed her from the vehicle and hogtied her. Although Kelly was initially placed inside the vehicle while lying on her abdomen, she later fell from the seat during transport and landed on the floor of the patrol car while begging for help.
“Officer please, I can’t breathe,” Kelly pleaded to Huffine. “I don’t want to die like this. I’m about to break my neck.”
For more than 20 minutes, Kelly asked the officer for help while receiving no answer. When they arrived at the jail, a female officer asked, “Honey, why are you head down like that?”
Kelly answered, “He was gonna kill me.”
While serving as interim chief for the Aurora Police Department, Vanessa Wilson fired Huffine after reviewing his body cam footage and the surveillance video inside the patrol car. Although a Chief’s Review Board had recommended a 180-hour suspension for Huffine, Wilson overruled the decision and chose to terminate him instead for punishing Kelly.
“That is not what we’re hired to do. We are not judge, jury, and executor. We are not to treat people inhumanely like they don’t matter,” Chief Wilson said during the appeal hearing on Tuesday. “[Huffine] is lucky that she did not die in the backseat of that car because he would be, in my opinion, in an orange jumpsuit right now. This is not what I expect from my officers.”
Wilson also testified the door handles in the backseat are inoperable, and in her opinion, hobbling Kelly was unnecessary. Wilson said she felt Huffine was “punishing” the prisoner who had also been verbally abusive toward the officer.
The police chief added that Kelly could have died from positional asphyxia from being left in that position for too long.
While currently appealing his termination from the Aurora Police Department, Huffine does not face any criminal charges for the arrest. Despite the fact that local law enforcement officials considered pressing charges against Huffine, Wilson stated that charges were not filed because Kelly did not suffer any serious injuries.