Investigation opened after Seattle officer heard joking about pedestrian’s death
Written by ABC Audio. All rights reserved. on September 14, 2023
(SEATTLE) — A Seattle police accountability office is investigating after an officer was recorded on his body camera joking over the death of a 23-year-old woman who was fatally struck by another officer who was responding to a call.
Graduate student Jaahnavi Kandula was in a crosswalk the night of Jan. 23 when an officer struck her with his patrol SUV, police said. The officer, Kevin Dave, was driving 74 mph moments before the collision, according to the Seattle Police Department’s investigation report provided to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Dave was responding as an emergency medical technician to a “priority 1” emergency call at the time, police said.
Officer Daniel Auderer responded to the scene to evaluate Dave and determined he did not show any signs of impairment, according to the investigation report.
In newly released body camera footage, Auderer can be heard discussing the incident while on the phone in his cruiser.
“He’s going 50 [mph]. That’s not out of control. That’s not reckless for a trained driver,” Auderer said during the phone call, which according to the video’s timestamp occurred on Jan. 24.
The other person he is talking to cannot be heard during the call.
After discussing whether she was in the crosswalk and how far she was thrown, Auderer says, “But she is dead,” and laughs several seconds later.
Toward the end of the 2 1/2-minute video, Auderer says, “Yeah, just write a check,” followed by laughter.
“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26, anyway,” he said, misstating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.”
The Seattle Police Department on Monday released the footage, saying the video was identified by a department employee who was “concerned about the nature of statements heard on that video” and brought it to the chief’s office.
Following a review of the video, the chief referred the matter to the police department’s independent Office of Police Accountability to determine “any policy violation that might be implicated,” the police department said in a statement on Monday.
The department released the video “in the interest of transparency” due to public concern, but said it cannot comment on its substance pending the completion of the Office of Police Accountability’s investigation.
“SPD has been in touch with the family of the victim pedestrian and continues to honor their expressed request for privacy,” the department said. “As others in the accountability system proceed with their work, we again extend our deepest sympathy for this tragic collision.”
Auderer is vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the police union that represents Seattle officers, according to the Seattle Community Police Commission, a citizen oversight board.
ABC News did not immediately receive a response from the Seattle Police Officers Guild or Auderer to a request for comment on the video.
The Seattle Community Police Commission’s co-chairs called the phone call “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.”
“After Detective Auderer is heard confirming that the pedestrian died, he is laughing in response to the person on the other end of the call,” the co-chairs — Rev. Harrier Walden, Rev. Patricia Hunter and Joel Merkel — said in a statement. “He joked that her life was only worth $11,000 and ‘had limited value.'”
In what was believed to be a private conversation, Auderer showed “unprofessional and inhumane conduct,” the statement continued.
Kandula was from India and was working to earn a master’s degree in information systems from Northeastern University’s Seattle campus when she died.
Dave had his patrol SUV’s emergency lights and siren on at the time of the collision, police said.
According to the investigation report, a responding officer reported that Dave appeared to be “visibly shaken” at the scene.
“Lights were on, was chirping the siren as I was headed down. She was in the crosswalk, she saw me, she started running through the crosswalk. Slammed on my brakes. Instead of staying back where she should before crossing, she just zips,” Dave told the officer, according to the report.
ABC News did not immediately receive a response from Dave to a message seeking comment on the case.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the incident to make any charging decision. The Office of Police Accountability is also investigating.
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