Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula was killed by speeding police car. A Seattle cop laughed at the 'joke'

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulSep 13, 2023 | 12:18

Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula was killed by speeding police car. A Seattle cop laughed at the 'joke'

The tragic incident involving a 23-year-old exchange student named Jaahnavi Kandula from India has sent shockwaves through Seattle, US, prompting investigations and raising serious questions about the conduct of some members of the city's police department. 


This event unfolded when Kandula was struck and killed by a Seattle Police car earlier this year, which was travelling at an alarming speed of 75 mph (119 kmph) in a 25 mph (40 kmph) zone while she was using a crosswalk.


The circumstances surrounding her death are troubling, and newly-released police bodycam footage has only added to the controversy.

  • The incident came to public attention when body-worn camera footage captured Daniel Auderer, the vice-president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, engaged in an unsettling phone conversation shortly after the accident.

Auderer had arrived at the scene of the tragedy, where Officer Kevin Dave, driving at break-neck speed on his way to another call, struck and fatally injured Kandula.

The severity of the collision threw her more than 100 feet.

  • In the recorded conversation, Auderer's comments were nothing short of insensitive. He can be heard suggesting that Kandula's life had "limited value" and went on to propose that the city should simply "write a check". 
“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway... she had limited value.”

Auderer's justification

In the aftermath of the incident, Jason Rantz, a talk radio host on KTTH-AM, revealed that Auderer had provided a written statement to the city's Office of Police Accountability. 

  • In an attempt to provide some sort of justification for his insensitive remarks, Auderer offers a creative explanation.
  • He argued that he was merely mocking the way lawyers tend to downplay liability in such cases.
  • In his statement, he implied that it's all just a big theatrical performance, where lawyers dance around the courtroom, juggling words and legal jargon, while the tragedy of a young life lost takes a backseat to their courtroom theatrics.
  • However, the statement acknowledged that anyone listening to his side of the conversation alone "would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life".
  • He claimed that he meant the comments as a mockery of the legal process rather than a reflection of malice or a lack of compassion.

Auderer's defence hardly softens the impact of his callous comments. Regardless of his intentions, his words were devoid of the empathy and compassion one would hope to see from a law enforcement official in his position.


Who was Jaahnavi Kandula?

Kandula's had travelled to the United States from Adoni in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool district in 2021. Kandula was working towards completing her master's degree in information systems from the Seattle campus of Northeastern University, with graduation anticipated in December 2023.

  • Following her untimely death, her uncle, Ashok Mandula, residing in Houston, arranged to have her body sent back to her mother in India.
  • He expressed the family's grief and disbelief, pointing out the value of every life and raising questions about the worth placed on his niece's life in this incident.
“The family has nothing to say... Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life.”
- Ashok Mandula [statement to The Seattle Times]

Legal proceedings under scrutiny

  • The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the crash, examining whether any criminal charges are warranted.
  • The Office of Police Accountability is also investigating Auderer's behaviour and statements.
  • The incident has raised questions about accountability within the police department and how officers conduct themselves, particularly in the aftermath of tragic events.
  • This controversy is playing out against the backdrop of another significant development within the Seattle Police Department.
  • A federal judge recently dialled down federal oversight of the department, a process initiated in 2012 to address concerns related to the use of force, community trust, and other issues.

This reduction raises concerns about the department's ability to self-police and maintain the trust of the community it serves.

Photo: AP

Seattle responds

In a written statement, the Seattle Police Department acknowledged the existence of the video footage and indicated that it was identified by an employee who raised concerns about the nature of the statements made. The matter, they said, was appropriately escalated through their chain of command, and it was referred to the Office of Police Accountability by Chief Adrian Diaz.

  • It remains unclear whether both Auderer and the chief's office reported the matter to the Office of Police Accountability or when Auderer took the initiative to do so. 
  • Gino Betts Jr, the director of the Office of Police Accountability, mentioned that the investigation began after a police department attorney emailed their office in early August.
  • Furthermore, the Community Police Commission, another oversight organisation in Seattle, expressed their shock and disappointment in Auderer's comments, describing them as "heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive."
  • They emphasised the importance of the police department fostering trust within the community and ensuring public safety. 
Last updated: September 13, 2023 | 12:18
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