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Aurora officer fired after leaving a woman restrained in his patrol vehicle for 21 minutes while she said she couldn't breathe

The now-former officer appealed the decision involving the woman, who slid onto the vehicle's floorboards and repeatedly asked for help, a decision letter says.

AURORA, Colo. — A restrained woman who fell into an inverted position for 21 minutes while being transported in a patrol vehicle has led to the termination of an Aurora officer, according to an internal affairs disciplinary notice from the department.

Aurora Police (APD) Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson sent a termination letter, which is dated Feb. 6, to now-former Officer Levi Huffine.

According to the notice, Huffine transported a woman — whose name is redacted — on Aug. 27, 2019, after she was arrested on municipal charges resulting from her involvement in a fight.

The woman was placed into a soft restraint hobble and slid onto the floorboard of the patrol vehicle with her head on the floor for about 21 minutes, the notice says. A soft restraint is a restraint which is commonly made from "soft" materials such as leather, rope or synthetic materials, and is used in a fashion to restrict movement.

"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," the notice says."You did not look to see what had happened to [the woman]. 

"You did not stop the car and physically check on her or reposition her to a safe and appropriate position on the rear seat."

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Wilson in the notice overturned a previous recommendation from the department's Chief's Review Board for a 180-hour suspension for Huffine, instead alerting Huffine that he had been fired.

"It is my expectation that officers always treat individuals with dignity and respect, and you failed to do so on this occasion," Wilson wrote in the notice. "You displayed complete disregard for her as a human being and any suffering she may have been experiencing while in your care during transport."

Wilson sent an email to APD personnel saying Huffine's termination notice was released in error.

"Our open records technician released the Huffine IA file in error," Wilson's email says. "I have asked for a preliminary investigation to find out how this occurred. Huffine is appealing his termination. I respect the rights of officers to appeal to the [Civil Service Commission] and I regret how this case was disclosed. I have spoken to his union representative. Now that you all may have seen the details of this case, I stand by my decision to terminate this officer and I will not be commenting to the press until the appeal is over."

APD said it would not release additional details about the incident, to include body-worn camera, until the Civil Service Commission proceedings have concluded. 

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