India raises concern over attitude to death of Indian student killed by police car

Jaahnavi Kandula. PHOTO: Twitter @IndianTechGuide

The Consulate General of India in San Francisco has raised concerns over the handling of a case involving a young Indian-origin woman, Jaahnavi Kandula who was killed by a police vehicle, and has demanded a through investigation and action against those involved.

The matter pertains to the reports showing an officer appearing to joke and bursting into laughter over the death of an Indian-origin student who was killed in January this year.

“Recent reports including in media of the handling of Ms Jaahnavi Kandula’s death in a road accident in Seattle in January are deeply troubling. We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case,” the Consulate General of India stated on X (formerly Twitter).

It added, “The Consulate and Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities”.

On Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, the Seattle Police Department released footage from accused officer Daniel Auderer’s body camera.

Auderer left his body camera on after responding to the South Lake Union area where a marked patrol vehicle driven by another officer Kevin Dave struck and killed Kandula, according to an NBC News report.

In the footage Auderer, who serves as vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, is driving and can be heard talking about the accident that involved 23-year-old graduate student Kandula in a call with the guild’s president Mike Solan.

In the video, Auderer can be heard saying “she is dead” before bursting out into laughter.

Referring to Kandula, Auderer said, “No, it’s a regular person.” Towards the end of the clip, he can be heard saying, through bursts of laughter, “Yeah, just write a check. Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” misstating the age of the victim. He further said, “She had limited value,” New York Post reported.

Auderer said that he did not believe a criminal investigation was being carried out. He said, “I mean, he was going 50 mph. That’s not out of control. That’s not reckless for a trained driver.”

However, a report released in June revealed that Dave was driving 74 mph in a 25-mph zone while responding to a different “high-priority” call, NBC News reported citing KIRO 7.

In a statement on September 11, 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.”

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California, tweeted on the issue Sept. 13. “Jaahnavi Kandula came here for graduate work from India. She was killed on a crosswalk by a speeding police car, & Officer Auderer said her life had “limited value.” I thought of my Dad who came here in his 20s. Mr. Auderer, the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value,” Rep. Khanna said. “Anyone who thinks that a human life has “limited value” should not be serving in law enforcement,” Khanna tweeted.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, strongly condemned the statements made by Auderer, as did Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois. “The recording of a Seattle Police officer making light of her death and questioning the value of her life is disgusting and unacceptable. I urge the Seattle Police Department to pursue its investigation into this matter with the seriousness it demands.”

Several Indian American organizations also expressed shock at the statements made by Auderer.

A Go Fund Me site opened after Jaahnavi’s death in January raised more than $160,000 to support her mother in India and help pay back loans taken for her education in the US.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here