WASHINGTON: Seattle police and law enforcement agencies are investigating several police officers, including some union members, after a body-camera audio-video showed them laughing and downplaying the death of a young Indian student hit by a speeding police cruiser.
Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, a student at Washington’s Northeastern University, was struck at a pedestrian crossing on the night of January 23 by a police patrol car driven by officer Kevin Dave traveling at 74 miles an hour (119 kmph) in a 25-mph (40 kmph) zone.

Another officer, later identified as Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) vice president Daniel Auderer, who was heading to the scene to conduct a drug recognition test on Officer Dave, reported the incident to SPOG president Mike Solan.

Part of their conversation conducted from a police cruiser runs like this:
“I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, and then when he hit the brakes threw off the car. But she is dead… (cackling laughter follows)
“No, it’s a regular person,” he continues. “Yeah, just write a check (laughs)… eleven thousand dollars… she was 26 anyway… she had limited value.”
A video of Seattle cops joking over the death of an Indian student in a road crash involving a police car conversation has shocked and outraged a nation all too familiar with callous police behaviour. Although the crash took place on January 23, local authorities released the video of the exchanges on September 11 while announcing an investigation.


‘She was 26… had limited value’: Video shows US cops joking about Indian student knocked dead by police car

Officer Auderer reportedly left his camera in the car running “inadvertently” while claiming the conversation was “private” and meant to be part of his duties as a SPOG representative. He then self-reported the incident to the OPA (Office of Police Accountability) “when he realised the incomplete conversation would sound bad,” according to the local media.
But the Seattle police, which put out the footage on YouTube on September 11, said “the 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.
Officer Auderer’s conversation, callous and insensitive as it is, also contains inaccuracies. He gives the victim’s age as 26 (she was 23) and mentions that Dave was “going 50 [miles an hour],” maintaining “that’s not out of control” for a trained driver, when he was actually travelling at 74 miles an hour, according to a report cited in the local media.
Local media reported that Auderer had given a written statement in which he stated that anyone listening to his side of the conversation alone “would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life”. But the comment was “not made with malice or a hard heart”.
Auderer claimed his comments were meant as a mockery of lawyers, according to KTTH radio station in Seattle. “I was imitating what a lawyer tasked with negotiating the case would be saying and being sarcastic to express that they shouldn’t be coming up with crazy arguments to minimise the payment,” he was quoted as saying.
“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,” the officer said.
SPD said it released the video “in the interest of transparency,” but will not comment further on it until the OPA finishes its investigation. The King County prosecuting attorney’s office, which covers the Seattle area, is also conducting a criminal review of the incident.
The Indian consulate in San Francisco said reports on the handling of Jaahnavi Kandula’s death in a road accident in Seattle in January are “deeply troubling” and it has “taken up the matter strongly” with local authorities in Seattle and Washington state as well as senior officials in Washington DC. It called for a “thorough investigation & action against those involved in this tragic case”.

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