Home India No Criminal Case Against US Cop Who Killed Indian While Driving At 120 kmph

No Criminal Case Against US Cop Who Killed Indian While Driving At 120 kmph

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No Criminal Case Against US Cop Who Killed Indian While Driving At 120 kmph

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No Criminal Case Against US Cop Who Killed Indian While Driving At 120 kmph

Jaahnavi Kandula wa a Master’s student in Seattle from Andhra Pradesh.

New Delhi:

Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old Indian student, was killed after being hit by a speeding police vehicle in the US state of Washington on January 23 last year. After a year of legal battles, court proceedings, statements from both the Indian and US governments, and calls for accountability, the police officer behind the wheels of the vehicle that ran over Ms Kandula will walk free, at least for now. 

Despite acknowledging the impact on communities both locally and “across the world”, a US prosecutor claimed a lack of “sufficient evidence” to pursue criminal charges against Seattle police officer Kevin Dave, who was driving at 120 kmph when his cop car hit Ms Kandula, a Master’s student in Seattle from Andhra Pradesh. 

In bodycam footage released by Seattle Police, officer Daniel Auderer, who was not involved in the collision but was present at the scene, callously laughed about the deadly crash before dismissing the need for a criminal investigation and making insensitive comments about Ms Kandula’s age and value.

Prosecutor’s Decision

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion expressed her concerns about Auderer’s comments, calling them “appalling and deeply troubling.” However, she added that as egregious as Auderer’s remarks were, they do not alter the legal analysis of Dave’s conduct. Instead, it falls under the purview of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) to address Auderer’s unprofessional behavior.

Auderer, who was pulled from patrol in September 2023 and reassigned to a “non-operational position,” now faces potential termination pending a disciplinary hearing scheduled for March 4. The video of Auderer callously discussing Kandula’s death has not only added fuel to the fire but has raised questions about the culture within Seattle Police.

“She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said in the video. “She had limited value.”

Seattle local media reported that speed was the primary cause of the collision, as Dave’s high-speed response did not provide sufficient time for Ms Kandula to detect, address, and avoid the impending hazard. The officer did not have his siren continuously activated, instead opting to “chirp” it at the intersection. While his emergency lights were on, the lack of a continuous siren and the excessive speed raised critical questions about the urgency and necessity of such a high-speed response.

In a memo to Seattle Police, prosecutors argued that there was not enough evidence to prove Dave showed a “conscious disregard for others’ safety.” The decision not to press criminal charges hinges on Washington State law’s requirement to prove a case beyond any reasonable doubt.

Community Police Commission’s Response

The Community Police Commission (CPC) responded to the decision with a statement expressing condolences to Kandula’s family and the Indian American community. The CPC acknowledged the limitations of the legal standard applied to Dave’s conduct and questioned at what speed his emergency response would be deemed reckless or disregarding the safety of pedestrians.

“While Officer Dave was traveling 74 mph on Dexter Avenue North at night prior to striking Ms Kandula, the prosecutor determined his conduct did not meet the legal standard of ‘recklessness’ or ‘disregard for the safety of others’ under Washington’s vehicular homicide statute. It begs the question: at what speed would Officer Dave have had to drive for his emergency response to be considered reckless or disregarding the safety of pedestrians in the area?” a CPC statement read. 

The CPC said it is working with Seattle Police regarding necessary changes to their emergency vehicle operation policy. The CPC demanded the need for policies that prioritise life and avoid putting the community at further risk. Additionally, the CPC is investigating the Seattle Police practice of responding to Seattle Fire Department calls for drug overdoses, seeking answers to why Dave was responding to such a call in the first place.

International Outrage

Last year, the release of bodycam footage featuring Auderer’s remarks triggered international outrage. Lawmakers, both in the United States and among the Indian-American community, condemned the behavior displayed in the video. Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna expressed his dismay, stating that every Indian immigrant’s life has infinite value, and anyone thinking otherwise should not be in law enforcement.

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal echoed the sentiment, calling the video appalling and demanding justice for Ms Kandula’s family. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco raised concerns over the incident, seeking a thorough investigation and action against those involved.

The US government assured India of a quick and fair investigation.

Seattle City Mayor Bruce Harrell, in a letter to the Kandula family, sought to distance the city from Auderer’s comments, stating that they do not reflect the feelings of the city or its communities. 
 

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