by Lauryn Bray
Last Updated on September 18, 2023, 2:37 pm.
Seattle District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales called for immediate action and Mayor Bruce Harrell apologized to the family of Jaahnavi Kandula after bodycam footage showed Seattle police officer Daniel Auderer laughing and joking while discussing the 23-year-old’s death after being struck and killed by a speeding Seattle police car enroute to a call.
The video has touched off a wave of outrage locally, across the country, and internationally with the Consul General of India in San Francisco saying they “have taken up the matter strongly” with local and state officials and have called for an investigation into the officers involved.
Kandula was killed on Jan. 23 after Seattle police officer Kevin Dave’s vehicle collided with Kandula while she was walking in a crosswalk. Dave, who was traveling 74 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, did not have his sirens on when he hit Kandula, Morales said in her statement.
Just hours after her death, Auderer said in a phone call to Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), that Kandula had “limited value.”
Seattle police said the bodycam footage was discovered by a concerned department employee who forwarded it to their supervisors. The footage eventually made it to the police chief’s office who referred it to the Office of Police Accountability for investigation.
At the time of her death, Kandula was a graduate student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus and Dave was responding to a priority-one call regarding an overdose nearby in South Lake Union. When Dave’s vehicle hit Kandula, she was thrown over 100 feet, according to reports.
Just hours after the incident, Auderer, vice president of SPOG, called Solan and proceeded to downplay the tragedy by making disparaging comments about Kandula. Bodycam footage released by police in which Auderer is discussing witness accounts of the incident captures him saying, “He said she was in a crosswalk — there is a witness that said, ‘No she wasn’t,’ but that could be different because I don’t think she was thrown 40 feet, either.”
Auderer can also be heard saying,”I mean, he was going 50 miles per hour. That’s not out of control. That’s not reckless for a trained driver.”
“I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, and then when he hit the brakes, flew off the car. But she is dead,” Auderer said and paused before laughing.
Auderer then proceeded to refer to Kandula as a “regular person” and suggested to Sloan to “just write a check,” apparently in reference to the amount of money that could compensate for Kandula’s death: “Just (laughs) $11,000. She was 26 anyway — she had limited value.”
In a statement to the Kandula family, Mayor Bruce Harrell expressed his condolences by saying, Kandula was “a caring, kind, and smart young woman who had a very bright and promising future ahead of her.”
Harrell also states that “the comments made by one person do not reflect the feelings of our city or the communities that call it home,” and that he recognizes that “Jaahnavi’s death is a loss for our whole community.”
Councilmember Tammy Morales also released a statement regarding Auderer’s comments in which she calls for Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz to take immediate action.
“After every high-profile incident of police abuse, we’re told to wait — wait for a six-month long investigation or a years-long review process. We’re done waiting,” said Morales in her statement. “I’m calling on Chief Diaz to tell the Council and community, in real terms, how he plans to regain control of his department and fix the culture.”
Morales said the culture of the police department may be a deterrent to hiring top quality officers.
“As a mother of three, I am disgusted by the comments Daniel Auderer made in the video. To the friends and family of Jaahnavi, I am so sorry that you had to witness your loved one’s memory and worth reduced to joking banter and laughter,” Morales said.
Morales cited a similar incident that occurred months prior when a lawsuit regarding Seattle’s graffiti laws unearthed footage depicting a mock tombstone for Damarius Butts.
Butts was killed by Seattle police officers in 2017 on a loading dock at the federal building on Western Avenue. He was pursued by police after fleeing a downtown convenience store where he coerced beer from the clerk by showing a handgun. Butts was shot 11 times, and a jury later found that the four officers responsible were acting within the extent of the law at the time of the incident.
Morales also points out that this is the first major case of police abuse that has come to light since the Department of Justice announced that it has begun phasing out their consent decree with the Seattle Police Department.
“The federal court just ended much of its oversight of the police department. This is the first major case of police abuse that has come to light since,” stated Morales. “It’s now the Chief’s sole responsibility to tell the people of Seattle what he’s going to do about it.”
Last Friday, Sept. 15, SPOG released a statement on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, saying, “The video captures only one side of the conversation. There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet.” SPOG also included Auderer’s response to the Office of Police Accountability where he said his comment about Kandula’s value was intended “as a mockery of 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.”
Editors’ Note: This story was updated on 09/18/2023 to include comments from the Seattle Police Officers Guild and correct a typographical error.
Lauryn Bray is a writer and reporter for the South Seattle Emerald. She has a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from CUNY Hunter College. She is from Sacramento, California, and has been living in King County since June 2022.
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