Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, was killed in January on a crosswalk near her university campus after she was struck by a patrol car and thrown over 100 feet while police were responding to an overdose in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Seattle Police said the officer driving the patrol vehicle was responding to a priority-one call when the incident happened. The officer was going 74mph in a 25mph speed zone.
Police ruled the incident was an accident, and returned the unnamed officer to duty shortly after.
Authorities are now investigating bodycam footage released by Seattle Police on Monday from the incident which shows officer Daniel Auderer — who is also the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild — insulting and laughing about the 23-year-old student during a phone call just hours after the incident.
In the footage, Mr Auderer can be heard speaking to SPOG president Mike Solan. He said: “There is initially – he said she was in a crosswalk, there is a witness that said, ‘No she wasn’t,’ but that could be different, because I don’t think she was thrown 40 feet, either.”
Mr Auderer can then be heard saying: “She is dead,” before laughing.
He continues: “No, it’s a regular person – yeah, yeah, just write a check, just, yeah,” before laughing again.
“$11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value,” he says.
In a self-reported complaint to Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability, Mr Auderer said the conversation was “private” and meant to be part of his duties as a SPOG representative.
Mr Auderer said he called Mr Solan “to explain what happened” and that he inadvertently left his body camera running, KTTH reported.
Speaking about the conversation, the Seattle police officer said Mr Solan told him it was unfortunate Ms Kandula’s death would “turn into lawyers arguing ‘the value of human life.’ ”
“I responded with something like: ‘She’s 26 years old. What value is there? Who cares?’ I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers,” Mr Auderer reported.
Mr Auderer continued: “I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy,” KTTH reported.
Mr Auderer acknowledged, according to KTTH, that anyone listening to the body-camera recording “would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life.”
He said the comment “was not made with malice or a hard heart.”
Ms Kandula’s uncle Ashok Mandula said, according to the Seattle Times, “The family has nothing to say. Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life.”
The Community Police Commission said the bodycam footage was “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.”
In a statement, the body said: “The people of Seattle deserve better from a police department that is charged with fostering trust with the community and ensuring public safety.”
The Seattle Police Department said: “The following video was identified in the routine course of business by a department employee, who, concerned about the nature of statements heard on that video, appropriately escalated their concerns through their chain of command to the Chief’s Office which, following a review of the video, referred the matter to OPA for investigation into the context in which those statements were made and any policy violation that might be implicated.
“This is what department policy and the City’s Accountability Ordinance require.”
The statement continued: “While any incident of public concern is under OPA, SPD or OIG review, no City employee should comment, either in their official or personal capacity, in a way that suggests that any factual, policy, or legal conclusions have been reached about the incident.”
The Office of Police Accountability is investigating.
Ms Kandula was a student at Northeastern University, studying for a master’s degree in information systems and was set to graduate this coming December.