A video released by Colorado’s Aurora Police Department on Tuesday shows a former officer ignoring a Black woman’s cries for help while she’s handcuffed upside-down in a police cruiser.
CBS 4 reports that Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said that the video shows former officer Levi Huffine “hobbling” 28-year-old Shataean Kelly during an August 2019 arrest. Kelly is seen in the video with her hands and feet handcuffed together. She rolls headfirst off the seat and is heard pleading for Huffine to help her.
“In my opinion she was just tortured back there. It makes me sick,” Wilson said during a civil service commission appeal for Huffine, who was fired as a result of the incident. “We are not judge, jury and executer. We are not to treat people inhumanely, like they don’t matter.”
Huffine arrested Kelly on Aug. 27, 2019 on municipal charges related to a fight. Bodycam footage shows Huffine hobbling her in the cruiser. After she rolls headfirst to the ground a short while into the car ride, Kelly is heard crying for help. Huffine ignores those pleas for the duration of the entire 20 minute ride. Huffine said he hobbled her because she tried to escape from the backseat of the cruiser.
Wilson testified that the door handles don’t work in the backseat, making Huffine’s decision to hobble her unnecessary. “The hobbling in my opinion was another form of punishment,” she said during the hearing.
Kelly could be heard telling Huffine that she couldn’t breathe and feared for her life. “Officer please, I can’t breathe,” Kelly says. “I don’t want to die like this. I’m about to break my neck,” cries Kelly. At no point does Huffine acknowledge Kelly’s pleas or make any attempt to help her.
“I don’t want to die like this, officer. ...I’m a good person I’m just under the influence,” she said, adding, “This is some slavery sh*t. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry God ... It hurts so bad ... Please don’t let me die back here.” Wilson said she couldn’t keep track of how many times Kelly pleaded for help and noted that she was particularly disturbed by the fact Kelly is heard saying “I beg you master,” at one point.
“As an African-American female she denigrates herself to the point she actually calls him ‘master.’ To me that is disgusting,” Wilson said.
While a Chief’s Review Board recommended Huffine only receive a 180-hour suspension, Wilson fired him in February of this year. Huffine appealed his termination, and once the hearing concludes, Aurora’s four-person civil service commission will decide to either uphold the termination or re-hire him with a potentially lesser punishment.
All criminal charges against Kelly were dropped. Criminal charges were considered for Huffine but, since Kelly didn’t have any serious physical injuries they ultimately weren’t filed.
While her body may have only been roughed up, I can only imagine the psychological trauma incurred by this incident. I’m pretty sure torturing someone is against the law, even if it’s a passive, disturbingly apathetic form of torture.
“He is lucky she did not die in the backseat of that car,” Wilson said. “Because he would be — in my opinion — in an orange jumpsuit right now.”