Outrage after US cop says dead Indian student had ‘limited value’
Bodycam footage of a US police officer laughing while discussing the death of a 23-year-old Indian student has caused outrage after the Seattle Police Department released the video on Monday.
In the footage, officer Daniel Auderer is heard joking and making derogatory comments as he discusses the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a student at Northeastern University who was fatally struck by a police patrol vehicle in January this year. Toward the end of the video, Auderer can be heard saying, through bursts of laughter: “Yeah, just write a check. $11,0000. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value.”
The footage captured by Auderer’s bodycam dates back to January 24, a day after the tragic incident in which a Seattle police vehicle driven by a fellow officer, Kevin Dave, struck Kandula as she was using a crosswalk. The incident occurred while officers were responding to an overdose call.
“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,” read a statement from the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
Acknowledging the “public concern” regarding the video, the SPD said it had released the footage “in the interest of transparency.” However, in accordance with city law, the department said it would refrain from making substantive comments until the investigation into the case is completed.
As reported by PubliCola in June, the patrol vehicle driven by Dave was traveling at 74mph (119kph) in a 25mph zone when it hit the student. Kandula died at Harborview Medical Center one day after being admitted in a critical condition.
Auderer, a drug recognition expert, was assigned to evaluate whether Dave had been impaired when the incident occurred. In the video released by the SPD, Auderer can be heard suggesting that “it does not seem like there’s a criminal investigation going on,” and that Dave had been traveling 50mph, insisting “that’s not out of control, that’s not reckless for a trained driver.” He added he did not believe that Kandula had been “thrown 40ft either,” contradicting the response team’s preliminary assessment.
The Community Police Commission, an oversight organization of the Seattle Police, called the bodycam footage “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.”
According to the Jason Rantz Show on Seattle radio station KTTH, Auderer claimed his remarks had been intended to mock city lawyers. “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 minimize the payment,” the officer said, according to a complaint obtained by the outlet. “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.”
Kandula hailed from Adoni, a small town in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and had arrived in the US in 2021 to pursue higher education. She was daughter to a single mother who teaches at an elementary school in her hometown and had one sister, the Deccan Herald reported in January. Her mother had reportedly taken out a loan to finance Kandula’s graduate studies in the US and help her earn a master’s degree.