The family of Jaahnavi Kandula, the young woman who died in the United States in January after being hit by a patrol car, has questioned the delay in release of bodycam footage in which a Seattle police officer is heard laughing about the horrific incident. “But she is dead… ” the officer is heard saying before laughing. “No, it’s a regular person. Yeah, just write a cheque,” he is heard, before laughing again. “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26, anyway. She had limited value.”
Ms Kandula’s grandfather said the young woman’s parents had been left “deeply distressed” by the video and that it had added to trauma and depression her mother continues to face; “This makes it worse. How can anyone speak like that after a tragic accident?” he asked.
“My daughter brought Jaahnavi up with great difficulty!”
“Why wasn’t this information revealed earlier? We have lost our child… but this is beyond shocking… and how can they say the car was not over-speeding?” he continued. The family is “not in a state to even react to this (the bodycam footage)”, her grandfather added.
Meanwhile, Ms Kandula’s family has also released a statement.
“It is truly disturbing and saddening to hear insensible comments on the bodycam video from an SPD officer regarding Jaahnavi’s death. Jaahnavi is a beloved daughter and beyond any dollar value for her mother and family. We firmly believe that every human life is invaluable and should not be belittled, especially during a tragic loss.”
Ms Kandula was a 23-year-old student at Northeastern University, from where she was due to graduate with a degree in information systems in December. According to a Seattle Times report from that day – January 23 – she was hit by a speeding police car while trying to cross a road.
The Bodycam Footage
The footage was released Monday – months after Ms Kandula was killed – with a brief statement that said it had been flagged by Seattle Police Department employee “in the routine course of business” who expressed “concern about the nature of statements heard” on the video.
The SPD said it was releasing the video “recognizing public concern… in the interest of transparency” and that it would not comment further pending the completion of an investigation.
Ms Kandula was not jaywalking – i.e., crossing the road at any point other than a zebra crossing.
In the video, Officer Daniel Auderer, Vice President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, had responded to the scene of Ms Kandula’s death. She had been struck by a police car driven by Officer Kevin Dave.
Mr Auderer had been tasked with determining if Mr Dave was under the influence and concluded he was not. After finishing his inquiry he was talking to SPOG chief Mike Solan and the bodycam footage captured the audio from that call. Only Mr Auderer’s side of the conversation is audible.
Mr Auderer has said his conversation was “private” and that he had left the bodycam on by mistake.
What Happened To Jaahnavi Kandula?
A SPD report released in June said the patrol car – being driven by Officer Kevin Dave – was travelling at 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour). The inquiry also determined the speed of the vehicle was the main reason for the collision, the Seattle Times said in another report.
The car began braking less than a second before it hit Ms Kandula and was travelling at about 63 miles per hour (101 km per hour) at the time of impact. Ms Kandula was thrown 138 feet.
The speed limit on the street where she was hit was 25 miles per hour, or 40 km per hour.
The officers were responding to a 911 call but, significantly, Ms Kandula “had right of way”; the law states police can exceed speed limits in certain cases but not if that will endanger lives.
US Assures Probe
The United States government has promised a swift but fair investigation into Ms Kandula’s death. This comes after the Indian consulate in San Francisco demanded an inquiry.
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 & Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC
— India in SF (@CGISFO) September 13, 2023
Senior officials of President Joe Biden’s administration have reportedly assured Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s Ambassador to the US, the incident is being taken very seriously.
A report by the British Broadcasting Corporation quotes a radio talk show host as claiming he has a written statement from Mr Auderer explaining his comments were mocking what he thought would be city attorneys’ reaction to the incident, and how they might try to minimise liability.
With input from agencies