Commission affirms firing of Aurora police officer who left restrained woman facedown in patrol car

A fired Aurora police officer who ignored pleas for help by a restrained woman who fell face-first onto the floorboard of a patrol car will not return to the department, the city’s civil service commission ruled Tuesday.

The former officer, Levi Huffine, appealed Chief Vanessa Wilson’s Feb. 24 decision to fire him, but the commission found Huffine’s “callous and intentional disregard for the safety and well-being of (the woman) was so egregious that the ultimate sanction of termination was warranted.”

Huffine arrested the woman on Aug. 27, 2019, on suspicion of violating municipal codes in connection with a fight. After she became combative when placed in the back of the patrol car, Huffine and other officers used a hobble to connect her legs and her handcuffed hands to a waist belt. Officers placed her on her side in the back of the car.

During the ride, the woman fell facedown to the floorboard of the car. For 21 minutes, the woman remained in that position while she yelled for help and said she couldn’t breathe.

“Please officer, I don’t want to die like this,” the woman pleaded, according to a video of the incident.

Huffine ignored her pleas and did not stop to check on her, video and case documents show.

The Aurora Civil Service Commission held two days of hearings on the incident last week, during which Huffine apologized for not helping the woman.

“It is simply not acceptable to refuse to believe a detainee who is screaming for help — screaming ‘I can’t breathe, my neck is breaking,’ without making any effort to confirm that she is safe,” the commission wrote in its findings.

The Aurora Police Department announced Huffine’s firing on Feb. 24, but would not say why he was fired. Details of the incident were revealed in July after a records request by The Denver Post.

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