AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) –The Aurora Civil Service Commission has decided not to give a fired Aurora patrol officer his job back after he left a prisoner upside down, while restrained, in the backseat of his patrol car last summer.
The “Commission hereby sustains the violations and Chief Wilson’s termination of Petitioner (Levi) Huffine,” wrote James Weeks, the commission chair.
Huffine appealed the termination after the chief of police fired him in February.
According to a six-page document, the Commission acknowledged Huffine’s remorse and regret during his testimony.
“The Commission also takes note that Petitioner served as an Aurora Police Officer since 2012 and the only formal discipline he received prior to this occurrence consisted of a written reprimand and a 10-hours suspension. Nonetheless, Petitioner Huffine’s callous and intentional disregard for the safety and well-being of Ms. Kelly was so egregious that the ultimate sanction of termination was warranted,” the Commission wrote.
In a hearing last week, Huffine said he was sorry for the incident.
“I do think it was serious. I do feel remorse,” Huffine said while explaining that he often doesn’t outwardly show emotion. “I did go home, and I did feel bad for Ms. (Shataeah) Kelly.”
The Commission found that “Huffine’s total disregard for the health and safety of Ms. Kelly during transport reflects direct discredit on (Huffine). It reflects poorly on the Aurora Police Department that he was representing.”
The Commission reported that 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.”
Kelly continuously screamed for help, saying she could not breathe, during the transport to jail in August 2019. Kelly, who is Black, also referred to the white officer as “master” while she begged to have her head lifted from the floorboard behind the driver’s seat while her hands and legs were restrained.
Huffine did not stop his patrol vehicle to check her well-being during the ride. He said he wanted to get Kelly to the jail as quickly as possible, so he could remove her from her restraints.
“I was relying on my instinct and my training, and it happened, and there’s nothing I can do to change that,” Huffine said.
He said he used his previous experience to determine that Kelly did not show any other signs of being in medical distress even though he didn’t look at Kelly while she was yelling.
Huffine testified that he did not initially reveal his remorse to the police chief, Vanessa Wilson, during his disciplinary hearing. He said she unfairly portrayed him as an officer who inhumanely treats prisoners and called the chief’s comments about him a “character assassination.”
“I am not somebody who is out there to punish people. I’m out there to protect – protect the individuals who need us the most,” he said.
Huffine said he worked for the city in different capacities since June of 1996. According to records obtained by the FOX31 Problem Solvers, Huffine was hired in November 2012 as a patrol officer.
The municipal charges for which Kelly was arrested, including assault and battery, injury to property, abusive language or threats, alter or befoul property, and escape, were ultimately dismissed by the city attorney. Kelly, who had been drinking, was the person who initially called 911 for help with an aggressive man.
Following the announcement from the Aurora Civil Service Commission, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a tweet:
“Today I was notified that the Civil Service Commission has upheld my termination of former officer Levi Huffine. Mr. Huffine’s shocking disregard for Shataeah Kelly’s safety and security while in his custody was reprehensible.
Acts like his take away from my officers who every day make a positive difference in the lives of our community members and put their lives in danger to help others.
I am committed to a new way of policing. One that will reshape and rebuild how we interact with our community while promoting transparency and earning trust.”Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson