Commission upholds firing of Aurora cop who ignored pleas of hobbled Black woman

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AURORA | Members of Aurora’s Civil Service Commission on Tuesday unanimously agreed to fire a former Aurora police officer who did nothing to help a woman who was hobbled, inverted and pleading for help in the back of his cruiser last August.

In a six page report, the four members of the local commission outlined why they believed former Officer Levi Huffine violated a pair of department protocols — conduct during transport and conduct unbecoming — when he detained Shataeah Kelly on Aug. 27, 2019.

“During transport, (Huffine) blatantly disregarded Ms. Kelly’s safety and security,” the commissioners wrote in the report signed by Chairman Jim Weeks. “(Huffine) admitted that, because she was hobbled, Ms. Kelly was likely to end up on the floorboard. He admitted he heard her cries for help and screams that she could not breathe and that she thought her neck would break. (Huffine) chose to ignore Ms. Kelly’s outcries because he felt she was ‘just another drunk.’”

Huffine first contacted Kelly in Fletcher Plaza shortly after 5:20 p.m. on a Tuesday evening after he and other officers reportedly saw her fighting another person in public, according to the report released Tuesday. He eventually used a Taser on Kelly and buckled her into the backseat of his patrol car while she was handcuffed. After Kelly kicked a window in the back of the car, Huffine tied her legs and hands together behind her back and put her back in the vehicle on her side. Throughout much of the encounter, Kelly accused Huffine of unfairly targeting her because she is Black and a lesbian, according to the report.

Huffine then spent more than 20 minutes driving Kelly to be booked into jail through rush hour traffic, during which time Kelly was upside down on the floor of the car telling Huffine that she could not breathe and felt like she was going to die.

Huffine later admitted that he did nothing to address Kelly’s cries, “and thought she was just ‘playing squirrel,’” according to the commission’s report.

Kelly did not sustain any significant physical injuries during the encounter, the report states.

The entire incident was captured on Huffine’s body-worn camera, the footage from which was released last week. The 37-minute clip has been viewed on the Aurora Police Department’s YouTube channel more than 27,000 times in the past five days, and cited in news reports published across the world.

The commissioners lamented the department’s lingering infamy.

“(Huffine’s) demonstration of inhumanity to Ms. Kelly will undoubtedly bring the department into direct disrepute in the eyes of the public as the video of what transpired is viewed by more and more of the public,” the report reads.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson formally fired Huffine in February, though he appealed her decision in early March. The Civil Service Commission held a hearing to consider Huffine’s appeal last week.

At that hearing, “Wilson testified that Petitioner Huffine’s conduct and his mistreatment of Ms. Kelly were the opposite of what the Aurora Police Department is about.”

Huffine had been on the local police force since 2012. He still has the option to appeal his ouster to be heard in district court.

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