A Seattle police officer is under investigation by a city watchdog agency after joking about the death of a university student who was hit by a speeding patrol car on its way to an 911 call relating to an overdose.
Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, was thrown 100 feet after being hit by the vehicle while on a crosswalk at the Northeastern University Seattle campus in January. Kevin Dave, the officer responsible, was driving at 74mph in a 25mph zone.
The student, from India, died later that night from her injuries.
Officer Daniel Auderer was dispatched to the crash scene on January 23 to check on the officer who struck Kandula. In police bodycam footage, which was only made public earlier this week, Officer Auderer can be heard describing the incident and laughing.
“No, it’s a regular person – yeah, yeah, just write a check. $11,000. She was 26 [sic] anyway. She had limited value,” he says on the video.
The video has been referred to the Seattle Office of Police Accountability “for investigation into the context in which those statements were made and any policy violation that might be implicated,” a statement confirmed.
Only Officer Auderer’s side of the conversation with Mike Solan, union president and co-chair of the Seattle Community Police Commission, can be heard on the tape.
The Seattle Police Department said this week that the footage was discovered, “in the routine course of business by a department employee” who was “concerned about the nature of the statements”.
Officer Auderer, who is trained as a drug recognition expert, submitted a self-reported complaint to the accountability office this week after the footage emerged, according to conservative KTTH Talk Radio host Jason Rantz who obtained a copy of the document.
Mr Auderer described the conversation as “private” and said that he left his body camera running unintentionally.
“I was imitating what a lawyer tasked with negotiating the case would be saying and being sarcastic to express that they shouldn’t be coming up with crazy arguments to minimize the payment,” Auderer’s complaint reads.
“The comments were not made with malice. I do understand that if a citizen were to hear it that they would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of a human life.”
EXCLUSIVE: The bodycam video backs my report below.— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) September 11, 2023
The officer said it would sound really bad without context (he's right). The context of what he was responding to, mocking city lawyers trying to get out of paying the family of a young victim, is important. https://t.co/evRAwJsfNO pic.twitter.com/uNDX0LwqcS
In a statement, the Seattle Community Police Commission described the comments as “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive”.
The Commission added: “The reported explanation that he was mocking lawyers does not make this unprofessional and inhumane conduct any better because it shows a callous dismissiveness toward police accountability systems.”
Following the video’s release, the Consulate General of India in San Francisco described it as “deeply troubling”.
In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, the Consulate wrote: “We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case. The Consulate and Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities.”