By Yaseen Shuja and Joshua Wang
On January 23, Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old immigrant and Northeastern University graduate student was crossing the street at the school's Seattle campus when she was hit by a police car at 74 miles per hour, 49 miles over the legal speed limit. Later that night, Kandula succumbed to her injuries and died.
Kandula was an Indian woman who had come to study in America to earn her master’s degree. On the night of the incident, an on-duty officer from the Seattle Police Department named Kevin Dave had been responding to a drug overdose call. On his way to the call, he struck Kandula on a crosswalk. It was reported that the emergency lights of the police vehicle were on at the time of the crash. Officer Dave had also chirped his siren at preceding intersections before the crash occurred. According to a detective, the officer only started braking one second before impact, which did not give either Kandula or Officer Dave sufficient time to react and assess the threat.
Source by Guneet Hanjra
Following her death this January, people across the nation and on social media continue to mourn Jaahnavi Kandula.
Eight months after Kandula was killed, the Seattle Police Department released body camera footage of Daniel Auderer, the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. Auderer had responded to the incident following the death of Kandula, and had investigated the accident. In the video, Auderer is on the phone with another individual, who was identified to be the union’s president, Mike Solan.
In the body camera footage, Officer Auderer can be heard saying “she is dead,” as well as “no, it’s a regular person. Just write a check for $11,000. She was 26, anyway. She had limited value.” In addition, laughter can be heard throughout.
This footage went viral online and has sparked outrage. In particular, the story caught the attention of prominent voices in the Indian community, such as Priyanka Chopra, Lilly Singh and Farhan Akhter, who had all made social media posts about Kandula’s death. Many students at New Hyde Park feel similarly as many celebrities who’ve spoken out about the issue.
“Witnessing the officer utter such disgusting remarks has left me shocked,” junior Joseph James said. “The girl was working hard trying to make a life for herself. She died and the police officer acted like it didn’t matter and continued to start making jokes about her.”
“You can’t put a price on someone’s life. To talk about someone in this manner is completely immoral and can’t be justified. These hardworking students and immigrants need to be treated more respectfully,” junior Ayden Truong said.
Auderer and the Seattle Police Department have received backlash for the incident, particularly from the South Asian diaspora. People around the world are starting to desire accountability for his actions. This event has inspired movements across social media as well as rallies across the nation.
“I am deeply shocked and revolted by the officer's reaction to Jaahnavi Kandula's tragic death,” senior Angelina Alias said. “I took it to my blog to show that such insensitivity and disregard for human life is utterly unacceptable. To hold the officer responsible, there should be a thorough investigation into the incident, including a review of the department's training and procedures regarding such cases. Appropriate disciplinary action, legal consequences, and reforms within the police force should be enforced to ensure accountability and prevent such incidents from happening in the future.”
In light of the public outrage and unrest that Kandula’s death has generated across the nation, several members of the Seattle Police Department have stated that crucial context was missing from the story when reported to social media. In a letter that Auderer wrote to the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, he states that his comments which were heard on the body camera footage were actually intended to mock the lawyers who would be tasked with the case. According to him, the statements were sarcastically highlighting how the restitution paid to Kandula’s family may be negotiated in court. As of now, the investigation remains ongoing as more details are gathered regarding the incident. It is yet unknown whether Officer Dave or Officer Auderer will face punishment for the death of Jaahnavi Kandula.