A police officer in Seattle, U.S. state of Washington, was recorded laughing about the death of an Indian student being hit and killed by a police car early this year, sparking outrage in the country and internationally.
More than 200 people on Thursday took to the Seattle intersection where 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula was fatally struck in January, calling for accountability for the officer who killed her and for Daniel Auderer’s comments about the crash, which some described as “disgusting” and “abhorrent.”
Kandula was struck by police officer Kevin Dave’s car on Jan. 23 and died that night. She was due to graduate in December with a master’s degree in information systems from the Seattle campus of Northeastern University.
Body-camera footage released this week showed Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, joking with the police union’s president by laughing and saying that Kandula “had limited value.”
“Jaahnavi Kandula’s death was a horrible tragedy, and the scale of her loss should not be diminished or mocked by anyone,” Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said on Thursday, urging the Seattle police to pursue the investigation with seriousness.
“The recording of a Seattle police officer making light of her death and questioning the value of her life is disgusting and unacceptable,” he added.
Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal also strongly condemned the incident, highlighting the harmful consequences of normalizing xenophobia and racism.
In a unanimous resolution, the National Federation of Indian American Associations called upon all relevant authorities to prioritize investigation, community engagement, and respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals.
“The family has nothing to say. Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life,” Kandula’s uncle, Ashok Mandula, was quoted as saying in a report by The Seattle Times.
India’s ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, raised the issue in Washington, D.C., and sought prompt action on the killing of Kandula, and the highly insensitive behavior of the police officer.
“We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington, D.C., for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case,” the Consulate General of India in San Francisco said in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The Seattle Police Department’s traffic collision investigation squad later reported that Dave struck Kandula at approximately 63 mph (101 km/h) in a 25 mph (40 km/h) area, and Kandula was thrown approximately 138 feet (42 meters).
In a statement this week, the police department said that the recording was identified by an employee “who was concerned about the nature of statements heard on that video.”
The video was sent to the city’s Office of Police Accountability “for investigation into the context in which those statements were made and any policy violation that might be implicated,” the statement said.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is now conducting a criminal review of the crash.