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For 20 Minutes, Her Pleas of 'I Can't Breathe' Were Ignored

Ex-Colorado cop appealing his firing over 2019 incident
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2020 10:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Colorado police officer ignored a Black woman's cries of "I can't breathe" while she lay hogtied in the back of a patrol car, her face on the floor. That's according to bodycam footage revealed Tuesday during an appeal hearing for now former Aurora police officer Levi Huffine, who was fired in February, per the Denver Post. He'd arrested Shataean Kelly, 28, on Aug. 27, 2019, after an alleged fight. Handcuffed in the back of the patrol car, Kelly tried to open the door. Huffine then said he would "hobble" her for "trying to get out." Kelly was removed and her feet tied to her hands—though this was totally unnecessary, Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said at the Zoom hearing. She noted "there's no escaping" as the car's rear doors won't open from the inside, per CBS News. Huffine declined calling for medical help before Kelly was returned to the back seat, where she cried that she couldn't breathe.

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Kelly asked Huffine to help her sit up, shouting aggressively when he didn't, per CBS. She then tumbled to the floor with her feet above her head. She apologized, saying she couldn't breathe and felt like her neck might break. "I'm a good person, I'm just under the influence ... Please don't let me die back here," she said. "I beg you, master." She added, "I never felt so much racism in my life," per CBS Denver. Kelly remained upside-down for 21 minutes before arriving at a jail. "She decided she wanted to roll," Huffine told an inquiring officer, per CBS. Kelly said, "He was gonna kill me." She easily could've died of positional asphyxia, Wilson said. "She was just tortured back there." Huffine is to discuss the transport at a Thursday hearing before Aurora's Civil Service Commission decides whether to uphold his termination. Wilson overruled a review board suggestion of a 180-day suspension. (Read more police misconduct stories.)

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