Bodycam footage: SPD officer heard laughing about woman being hit, killed by cop car
The officer was traveling at 74 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone while responding to an emergency call when the cruiser struck the woman.
WASHINGTON: Seattle police and law enforcement agencies are investigating several police officers, including some union members, after a body-camera audio-video showed them laughing and downplaying the death of a young Indian student hit by a speeding police cruiser. Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, a student at Washington's Northeastern University, was struck at a pedestrian crossing on the night of January 23 by a police patrol car driven by officer Kevin Dave traveling at 74 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone. Another officer, later identified as Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) Vice President Daniel Auderer, who was heading to the scene to conduct a drug recognition test on Officer Dave, reported the incident to SPOG President Mike Solan. Part of their conversation conducted from a police cruiser runs like this:
"I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, and then when he hit the brakes threw off the car. But she is dead... (cackling laughter follows) "No, its a regular person," he continues. "Yeah, just write a check (laughs)... eleven thousand dollars... she was 26 anyway... she had limited value."
Although the incident took place on January 23, the video of the exchanges, officially released on September 11 while announcing an investigation, has shocked and outraged a nation all too familiar with callous police behavior.
Officer Auderer reportedly left his camera in the car running "inadvertently" while claiming the conversation was “private” and meant to be part of his duties as a SPOG representative. He then self-reported the incident to the OPA (Office of Police Accountability) "when he realized the incomplete conversation would sound bad," according to the local media.
But the Seattle police, which put out the footage on youtube on September 11, said "the 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 to the Chief’s Office which, following a review of the video, referred the matter to OPA for investigation into the context in which those statements were made and any policy violation that might be implicated. Officer Auderer's conversation, callous and insensitive as it is, also contains inaccuracies. He gives the victim's age as 26 (she was 23) and mentions that Dave was “going 50 [miles an hour],” maintaining “that’s not out of control” for a trained driver, when he was actually traveling at 74 miles an hour, according to a report cited in the local media.
SPD said it released the video “in the interest of transparency,” but will not comment further on it until the OPA finishes its investigation. The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which covers the Seattle area, is also conducting a criminal review of the incident.
The Indian consulate in San Francisco said reports on the handling of Ms Jaahnavi Kandula’s death in a road accident in Seattle in January are "deeply troubling" and it has "taken up the matter strongly" with local authorities in Seattle & Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC. It called for a "thorough investigation & action against those involved in this tragic case."
Meanwhile, Auderer claimed his comments were meant as a mockery of lawyers, according to KTTH radio station in Seattle.
He noted that Solan "lamented" the young woman's death during the two officers' initial conversation, adding that it was unfortunate that her death would "turn into lawyers arguing 'the value of human life.'" "I responded with something like: 'She's 26 years old. What value is there? Who cares?' I intended the comment 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 minimise the payment," he was quoted as saying.
"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," the officer said.
According to the report, Auderer acknowledged that anyone listening to the body-camera recording "would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life" and said the comment "was not made with malice or a hard heart."