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India reacts as US cop who killed Jaahnavi Kandula goes scot-free

February 24, 2024 14:25 IST

India's consulate in Seattle has raised with authorities the case of Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula after the prosecution attorney said an overspeeding Seattle police officer who struck and killed her while responding to an overdose call will not face any criminal charges due to lack of "sufficient" evidence.

IMAGE: Jaahnavi Kandula. Photograph: ANI

Kandula, 23, was struck by a police vehicle driven by Officer Dave when she was crossing a street in Seattle on January 23. He was driving 74 mph (more than 119 kmh) on the way to a report of a drug overdose call. Kandula was thrown 100 feet when she was struck by the speeding police patrol vehicle.

In bodycam footage released by the Seattle Police Department, Officer Daniel Auderer laughed about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication Dave might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary.

On Wednesday, the King County Prosecutor's Office said they would not move forward with criminal charges against Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave due to a lack of evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.


India's consulate in Seattle also said it was monitoring the progress in the case and will extend all possible support in ensuring justice for Kandula and her family.

"On the recently released investigation report of the King County Prosecution Attorney on the unfortunate death of Jaahnavi Kandula, the Consulate has been in regular touch with the designated family representatives and will continue to extend all possible support in ensuring justice for Jaahnavi and her family," the mission said in a post on X.

"We have also raised the matter strongly with local authorities, including Seattle Police for appropriate redress. The case has now been referred to the Seattle City Attorney's office for review," the post said on Friday.

It also said the mission was waiting for the completion of Seattle Police's administrative investigation and will continue monitoring the progress in the case.

Members of the South Asian community as well as local people had staged protests demanding justice for the Indian student who died tragically.

In the statement on Wednesday, the King County Prosecuting Attorney said: "Kandula's death is heartbreaking and impacted communities in King County and across the world."

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said that she believes they lack the evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, the statement said.

"It is the responsibility of the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to review all available evidence relating to the case involving Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave and the January 2023 collision death of Jaahnavi Kandula. After staffing this case with senior deputy prosecuting attorneys and office leadership, I have determined that we lack sufficient evidence under Washington State law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The statement also said that the prosecutor's office finds the comments made by Seattle Police Officer Daniel Auderer, recorded on his body-worn video, "appalling and deeply troubling".

Auderer, who was not involved in the January collision, was captured in the video saying, "But she is dead" and laughing while on the phone.

She was 26 anyway," Auderer said in the video. "She had limited value."

"Officer Auderer's comments were also unprofessional and undermined the public's trust in the Seattle Police Department and law enforcement in general," said Manion.

"As egregious as Officer Auderer's comments are, they do not change the PAO's legal analysis of the conduct of Officer Dave. It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer's comment, not the PAO."

Auderer was pulled from patrol in September 2023 and reassigned to a "non-operational position".

Auderer could still be fired after the fallout of his insensitive comments captured on bodycam.

Auderer's chain of command and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) found he acted unprofessionally. For that, he faces the highest disciplinary range of nearly two weeks suspension up to termination, according to a disciplinary action report.

Seattle local media reported that speed was the cause of the collision, as the speed at which Dave was travelling did "not allow (Kandula) or him sufficient time to detect, address and avoid a hazard that presented itself".

Dave was responding to a "priority one" call at the request of the Seattle Fire Department, according to the Seattle Police Department. According to the police report, the officer was responding to a report of a drug overdose.

The officer did not have his siren activated continuously. Instead, the officer "chirped" his siren at the intersection. He did have his emergency lights on, according to a previous statement from the police department.

In a memo to Seattle police, prosecutors wrote there was not enough evidence to prove Dave showed "conscious disregard for others safety".

A drug recognition expert responded to the scene and found no impairment in the officer.

Kandula was a graduate student at Northeastern University at the Seattle campus. The university in January 2023 said they would award her degree posthumously and present it to her family.

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