An investigation has been launched into a Seattle police officer after a body-camera recording surfaced in which he was heard making disparaging remarks about the tragic death of 23-year-old Indian-origin student Jaahnavi Kandula. Jaahnavi lost her life when she was struck by a police cruiser while crossing a street in January this year.
Officer Daniel Auderer, who serves as the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, inadvertently left his body camera recording while reporting the incident to guild President Mike Solan. During this conversation, another officer named Kevin Dave accidentally hit and fatally injured Kandula, as reported by The Seattle Times.
In the video, Officer Daniel Auderer can be heard making insensitive comments, including jokes about the worth of Jaahnavi Kandula’s life and suggesting the city should compensate with a monetary settlement.
“She is dead,” Auderer is heard saying before bursting into laughter. He further comments, “No, it’s a regular person,” in reference to Kandula, according to the New York Post.
Additionally, Daniel Auderer inaccurately mentions the student’s age as 26, stating, “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway.”
The Seattle Police Department publicly released the bodycam recording on Monday, 11th September.
Auderer has acknowledged his involvement in the investigation as an impairment recognition officer. He defended his conversation, describing it as “private” and part of his duties as a representative of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). This explanation came in response to a self-reported complaint made to Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability, as noted by conservative KTTH talk show host Jason Rantz.
According to Auderer, Guild President Mike Solan expressed sorrow over the tragic death. Auderer stated that his comments were intended to simulate how the city’s attorneys might attempt to minimise liability in the case of Kandula’s death. He explained, “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.”
Auderer also acknowledged that anyone hearing only his side of the conversation might reasonably believe he was displaying insensitivity toward the loss of human life. However, he emphasised that his remark was not made with malice or a hardened heart; on the contrary, it was meant to convey the opposite sentiment.
The Community Police Commission, another oversight body for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), characterised the body-camera audio as “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.” They added that it “speaks to the concerns that the [CPC] has repeatedly raised about elements of Seattle Police Department culture and SPOG resistance to officer accountability measures.”
Jaahnavi, hailing from Adoni, a city located in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, was the daughter of a single mother who worked as a schoolteacher. She had a sister who resided with their mother.
To facilitate Jaahnavi’s pursuit of a graduate degree in the United States, her mother had taken a financial loan. The 23-year-old had previously graduated from Dr. Jyothirmayi Degree College in Andhra Pradesh with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. At the time of the tragic incident, she was working towards a Master’s degree in Science.
David Thurman, the dean of Northeastern’s Seattle Campus, conveyed a message to the university’s students, describing Jaahnavi as an exceptional student and a vibrant, cheerful individual. He expressed that her passing would be deeply felt by students, staff, and faculty throughout the campus.
According to the available reports, on 23rd January 2023, Officer Kevin Dave was driving his vehicle at a speed of 119 kilometres per hour (equivalent to 74 miles per hour). He was en route to respond to an overdose call when the unfortunate incident occurred, where he struck Jaahnavi Kandula, who was crossing the road.
Daniel Auderer, who was designated as a drug recognition expert, was tasked with evaluating whether Officer Dave was impaired as a result of the incident. Subsequent to the accident, Auderer contacted Guild President Mike Solan to apprise him of the situation.
Initially, Auderer had reported that Officer Dave was driving at a speed of 50 miles per hour and did not describe the situation as “out of control.” However, as the police investigation progressed, it was determined that the vehicle was indeed travelling at 74 miles per hour when it collided with Kandula. This impact resulted in Kandula being thrown over 100 feet from the point of impact.