‘Was being sarcastic’, says US cop who mocked Jaahnavi Kandula’s death

The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild defends the official's remarks

Jaahnavi-Kandula-death-ap People cross the street as they walk to the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct to protest against the Seattle police officer joking about the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, hit and killed in January by officer Kevin Dave in a police cruiser | AP

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild on Friday defended its official, Daniel Auderer, who joked about the death of a 23-year-old Indian student after she was struck by a speeding patrol car earlier this year.

Though the incident happened in January, the bodycam footage, released by the Seattle Police Department on Monday, reveals Auderer mocking the Indian student’s death. The footage paved way for protest erupting in several areas with slogans raised to "end police terror".

Jaahnavi Kandula was killed after she was struck by a police vehicle driven by officer Kevin Dave. According to the Seattle Times newspaper, he was driving 74 mph (more than 119 kmph) on the way to a report of an overdose.

In the footage, Auderer laughed about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication against Dave. He was heard saying, "Yeah, just write a check. USD 11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value." Following the outage, he defended himself saying that his comments were “taken out of context".

In a letter addressed to Gino Betts, director Office of Police Accountability, Auderer said he was under the impression of the conversation being private. He stated that he was giving an update to Guild’s president Mike Solan while he was in his patrol car and the talks took turn to the lawyers arguing "The value of human life".

"What crazy argument can a lawyer make in something like this?...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...," he said. I was being sarcastic to express that the (lawyers) shouldn't be coming up with crazy arguments to minimise the payement," Auderer wrote.

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability said that it has opened an investigation into the incident.

“I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and... how I have watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy. At the time I believed the conversation was private and not being recorded. The conversation was also not within the course of my duties,” he said.

Jaahnavi-kandula-death-ap A photo of Jaahnavi Kandula is displayed with flowers | AP

“I understand that without context, the comment could be interpreted as horrifying and crude. Without context, the comment is insensitive to the family of the victim when in reality I was involved in a conversation regarding the callousness of the legal system. At the time I had no idea who the victim was,” Auderer wrote.

The Guild's statement read "The video captures only one side of the conversation. There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet...SPOG has full confidence that the civilian led police accountability system known as the Office of Police Accountability / OPA will conduct a thorough and fair investigation."

The Consulate General of India in San Francisco on Wednesday termed the handling of Kandula's death in a road accident as "deeply troubling".

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