AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The female prisoner who was left hobbled and upside down in the backseat of an Aurora Police patrol car in August 2019 said she cried when she finally saw the body-camera footage of the incident, more than a year after it happened.
“I was just crying. I mean, bawling tears like if somebody had just died,” said Shataeah Kelly. “I am so numb inside. It feels like I’m actually dead, you know what I mean? Because (of) the pain that I felt watching the video.”
The video was released Tuesday, during a City of Aurora Civil Service Commission hearing for former Aurora police officer Levi Huffine, who is appealing his February 2020 termination. It shows Kelly continuously shouting and crying that she could not breathe when she slipped off the backseat, headfirst, onto the floorboard. During the ride, Kelly, who is Black, called former Aurora police officer, Levi Huffine, who is white, “master” as she begged for him to help her.
“I never knew how bad a heart could feel until I watched that video, and I was like, ‘How could you treat another person like that?'” said Kelly. “Animals don’t even deserve to be treated like that, and what you did was you treated me less than the dirt on the ground.”
Kelly, 28, told the FOX31 Problem Solvers she was not invited to speak during the four-day hearing in which Huffine is attempting to win back his job, but she said she supports the Aurora Chief Vanessa Wilson’s decision to terminate Huffine.
“Chief, if you hear me, you’re doing the right thing,” said Kelly. “I really appreciate you hearing my story. You understand where my heart was. You understand that wrong is wrong and right is right.”
An investigation found Kelly was “initially verbally belligerent, but after several minutes, she slid onto the floorboard of the patrol vehicle with her head on the floor.”
She was in an “inverted position on the floorboard of the patrol vehicle for approximately 21 minutes until (Huffine) arrived at the jail. During that 21 minutes, she repeatedly asked for help, said that her neck was going to break, said that she could not breathe and that she did not want to die like that.” Huffine “did not look to see what had happened,” according to police disciplinary documents.
On Wednesday, a criminal justice expert for Huffine’s defense, Dr. Paul Taylor, testified for several hours about his written assessment of Kelly’s transport to jail.
“I’m trying to bring light to the decision-making and what influences decision making in this process,” said Taylor.
“With Miss Kelly in this situation – the reason for her arrest was that she was engaged in a physical altercation at the park. There was an elevation that ended up in hobbling… There was a taser deployment at one point. There was verbal threats from Miss Kelly prior to her falling off of the seat. All of these things have to go into an officer’s calculus as to whether or not it’s worth me stopping and engaging in this situation or continuing on to the place where I have resource, and we’re able to deal with this situation without having to use a level of force,” he said. “There is no way that Officer Huffine could see the position that she was in, in the backseat… He couldn’t have seen it, so his assessment of that situation is not going to be based on that.”