AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Fired Aurora Police Officer Levi Huffine testified Thursday that he was remorseful and sorry for the way he transported handcuffed and hobbled prisoner Shataeah Kelly.
“I do think it was serious. I did feel remorse, I do feel remorse,” said Huffine at an appeals hearing before Aurora’s Civil Service board.
“I do regret it,” lamented the veteran officer, who is trying to get his job back.
He was fired in February over the treatment of Kelly in August of 2019. Huffine arrested the woman on municipal charges after Kelly had been drinking and fighting. When she resisted arrest, she was tasered and then handcuffed and hobbled. But in a 21-minute ride to jail in the back of Huffine’s patrol car, the woman ended up inverted, with her head on the floorboards, hands cuffed behind her back, legs hobbled and in the air.
For the entire ride, Kelly complained she couldn’t breathe, was afraid her neck was going to break, could be heard sobbing and screaming and said she was afraid she might die.
Under cross examination by an assistant city attorney, Huffine acknowledged he heard Kelly beg for help, heard her scream in pain and at one point beg him for help calling him “master.”
But Huffine testified he never turned around to look at what was happening.
“Looking back in hindsight, I’m very remorseful that I continued and I made the choices, but I didn’t know she was in that position. I’m sorry. It was a mistake. But I had no clue she was in an inverted position in the backseat of my car.”
Huffine testified he was trying to get Kelly to jail as quickly as possible so she could be released from the hobble.
“I was relying on my instinct and training and it happened. There’s nothing I can do to change that.”
He said he did not do anything intentionally and was not trying to punish Kelly or inflict pain. He said he believed Kelly intentionally rolled herself off the seat.
In earlier testimony, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said what she saw on the bodycam tape “makes me sick. We are not to treat people inhumanely like they don’t matter. ”
Huffine testified he felt the Chief was engaging in “character assassination.” He pointed out that Aurora officers had long complained about the risks of transporting hobbled prisoners in the back of their patrol cars and that the practice was prohibited after this incident.
An internal APD review board had recommended a 180-hour suspension for Huffine but Wilson overruled that recommendation.
The four members of the civil service commission will now weigh the testimony they heard this week and issue a written ruling. They could uphold the firing or decide to give Huffine his job back.