AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Levi Huffine, the Aurora police officer fired over a newly obtained video, showing a female prisoner handcuffed and hogtied in the back of his patrol car, testified Wednesday in an appeals hearing. He acknowledged there were some things he could have done better during the Aug. 27, 2019 arrest of Shataeah Kelly.
“I could have absolutely,” said Huffine. He said when he first detained Kelly, 28, “I told her to shut up. I told her to be quiet. At that point my main concern was to get her in the back of my patrol car.”
Aurora’s police chief fired the veteran officer after seeing his body cam video which was released publicly for the first time this week.
It shows Kelly, who was arrested on minor charges, handcuffed and hobbled with her wrists tied to her ankles behind her back, slipping off the back seat of Huffine’s patrol car and on to the floor.
For 21 minutes, Kelly is inverted with her feet in the air and her head on the floor.
“Officer please, I can’t breathe,” said Kelly. “I don’t want to die like this. I’m about to break my neck.”
Kelly begs the officer to stop the car and change her position, but he appears unresponsive to her pleas for help.
“My neck is killing me dude. Help me, I can’t breathe.” At one point Kelly, who is Black, can be heard saying, ”I never felt so much racism in my life.”
Kelly, begging and sobbing for help, refers to Huffine as “master.” She says “I beg you master.”
Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said while the entire tape is troubling, that may have been the worst part.
“As an African-American female, she denigrates herself to the point she actually calls him ‘master,'” said Wilson. “To me that is disgusting.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Huffine began testimony before Aurora’s Civil Service Commission. They will decide whether to uphold the termination or potentially give Huffine his job back.
“I care about the Aurora community,” said Huffine, who grew up in Aurora.
He told the Civil Service Commission about going to work for the City of Aurora as a teenager on a local golf course, becoming an Eagle Scout, working in a jail and eventually becoming an Aurora police officer.
He methodically began explaining what led to Kelly ending up in the back of his patrol car. He said she had been involved in a fight at an Aurora park and appeared to be the aggressor. Huffine described using a Taser on the woman with little effect.
“She was not obeying my lawful orders,” said Huffine. “My ultimate goal was to place her in handcuffs and take her into custody with the least amount of force, injury,” said Huffine.
But before Huffine could explain what happened in his patrol car, and why, the hearing was adjourned until Thursday morning.
The officer was not criminally charged and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson explained that was because Kelly did not suffer serious injuries or death.
An internal APD review board recommended a 180-hour suspension for Huffine, but Wilson overruled the board, saying she was sickened by what she saw on Huffine’s body cam.
All criminal charges against Kelly were dropped. CBS4 attempted to reach Kelly by phone and email.