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Public Outrage Escalates in Seattle and India Over Student’s Death and Insensitive Remarks from Police Officer

by Ryan Lee
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Seattle police officer's insensitive comments

Public indignation intensified last Friday following comments from a Seattle police officer, who disparagingly stated that the life of a young woman fatally hit by a speeding police vehicle had “limited value.” Indian diplomats are calling for an official investigation after the demise of the Indian graduate student, while individuals in Seattle took to the streets to demonstrate against the officer’s insensitive comments, captured on body camera footage.

The video, made public earlier this week, features Officer Daniel Auderer, who serves as the Vice President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. He was recorded sharing jokes with the union’s president following the tragic incident in which another officer’s vehicle fatally collided with Jaahnavi Kandula at a crosswalk on January 23.

A gathering of protesters convened on Thursday evening at the Seattle intersection where the 23-year-old graduate student met her untimely death due to a collision with Officer Kevin Dave’s SUV. An ongoing criminal review of the fatal incident is currently being conducted by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

According to reports by The Seattle Times, Auderer was called to the scene of the accident to assess whether Officer Dave was under the influence. Dave was clocked driving at 74 mph (119 kph) in an area with a 25 mph (40 kph) speed limit, en route to respond to an overdose emergency call.

Auderer later unintentionally left his body camera on while conversing with Mike Solan, the President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, reporting the incident. The released recording revealed Auderer joking that Kandula’s life had “limited value,” suggesting that the city should merely compensate with an $11,000 check.

At Thursday’s protest, a young girl named Layla Allibhai was seen sitting atop her father Mo Allibhai’s shoulders, holding a sign that read: “I have unlimited value. So did Jaahnavi.” Other demonstrators held signs calling for the conviction of Officer Kevin Dave.

Patricia Hunter, the co-chair of the Community Police Commission, said in an interview on Friday that the insensitive comments have ignited public fury. She emphasized the urgent need to address systemic issues within the Seattle Police Department. The commission plans to collaborate with other oversight bodies to investigate the incident fully, ascertain possible policy violations, and to serve justice by amplifying the voice of the angered community.

The Consulate General of India in San Francisco issued a tweet confirming that they are engaging with authorities in both Seattle and Washington, D.C. They have demanded a comprehensive investigation into the incident and subsequent actions against those involved. Indian newspapers are closely monitoring developments in the case.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department labeled the incident as disturbing, expressing their condolences to Ms. Kandula’s family and loved ones. The Seattle Police Officers Guild also released a statement acknowledging the insensitive nature of the comments captured on the body camera footage, expressing remorse for the emotional toll it has exacted on Kandula’s family.

However, the union highlighted that the released footage only shows one side of the conversation, hinting at complexities yet to be disclosed. Mike Solan, the individual on the other end of the call with Auderer, did not offer immediate comments.

In a statement released on August 8 to the Office of Police Accountability, Auderer clarified that his comments were aimed to satirize how legal discussions surrounding such tragedies tend to unfold. He refuted any allegations that his comments were made with malicious intent.

Jaahnavi Kandula hailed from Andhra Pradesh, a state in the southern part of India. She had come to Seattle with aspirations of obtaining a master’s degree in information systems from Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, aiming to financially support her mother back in India.

Contributors to this report include reporters from Salem, Oregon, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Seattle police officer’s insensitive comments

What is the primary event that has caused public outrage?

The primary event causing public outrage is the death of an Indian graduate student, Jaahnavi Kandula, who was fatally struck by a speeding Seattle police SUV. Further fueling the outrage were insensitive comments made by Officer Daniel Auderer, caught on body camera footage, in which he suggested that the victim’s life had “limited value.”

Who is Officer Daniel Auderer?

Officer Daniel Auderer is the Vice President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild. He was recorded making callous remarks about the value of Jaahnavi Kandula’s life, suggesting that the city should issue a check for $11,000 as compensation for her death.

What actions are being taken by authorities in Seattle and India?

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Seattle is conducting a criminal review of the crash. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco has engaged with authorities in Seattle and Washington, D.C., demanding a comprehensive investigation and action against those involved.

What has been the public’s response to the incident?

Public indignation has manifested in protests and online discourse. At one such protest, demonstrators carried signs calling for the conviction of the officer responsible for the fatal crash and critiquing the insensitive comments made by Officer Auderer.

What organizations are involved in investigating the incident?

Several organizations are involved in the oversight and investigation of the incident. These include the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of Police Accountability, and the Community Police Commission.

How has the U.S. State Department responded?

The U.S. State Department has labeled the incident as disturbing and expressed their condolences to Ms. Kandula’s family and loved ones.

What is the stance of the Seattle Police Officers Guild?

The Seattle Police Officers Guild acknowledged the insensitive nature of the comments captured on the body camera footage. However, they pointed out that the released footage only shows one side of the conversation, hinting at complexities yet to be disclosed.

What was Jaahnavi Kandula’s background?

Jaahnavi Kandula was from Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India. She was in Seattle pursuing a master’s degree in information systems from Northeastern University, with the aspiration to financially support her mother back in India.

What will happen next in terms of legal proceedings?

While the details are still emerging, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the crash. Various oversight bodies are also working together to ascertain possible policy violations and to ensure that justice is served.

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