Why the Seattle cop who hit and killed Jaahnavi Kandula won't face charges

'There was lack of evidence under the Washington State law to prove a criminal case'

Seattle Police Pedestrian Killed A photo of Jaahnavi Kandula is displayed with flowers, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023 in Seattle, at the intersection where she was killed by a Seattle Police officer driving north while responding to a nearby medical incident | AP

The Seattle police officer who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, a graduate student from India, will not face felony charges, said prosecutors in Washington state on Wednesday. Officer Kevin Dave, while responding to a drug overdose case, was speeding at 119km per hour on a street, when he ran over 23-year Kandula in a crosswalk on January 23, 2023. 

The case garnered widespread attention after another officer identified as Daniel Auderer was heard on body camera commenting that Kandula's life had "limited value" and that the city should just write a check for $11,000. Auderer was set to face action for his comments, which the Civilian OPA said "undermined public trust in the department, himself, and his colleagues."

However, in a memo to the Seattle police department on Wednesday, the King County prosecutor’s office said there was a lack of sufficient evidence under the Washington State law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. The memo added that Dave had on his emergency lights and that other pedestrians reported hearing his siren, reported Guardian. 

It added that Kandula appeared to try to run across the intersection after seeing his vehicle approaching. "She might also have been wearing wireless earbuds that could have diminished her hearing," they noted.

For those reasons, a felony charge of vehicular homicide was not warranted. However, the city prosecutors could file lesser charges, such as negligent driving.

About Auderer's comments, the prosecutor's office added that his comments were appalling and deeply troubling. "Officer Auderer’s comments were also unprofessional and served to undermine the public’s trust in the Seattle Police Department and law enforcement in general. As egregious as Officer Auderer’s comments are, they do not change the PAO’s legal analysis into the conduct of Officer Dave," the office added.

However, Tim Robinson, a spokesperson for the Seattle city attorney’s office, said the case had not been referred to it for possible misdemeanour prosecution yet. The Seattle police department did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry about whether it might refer the case to that office. 

Meanwhile, the Kandula family expressed shock and disappointment at the King County prosecutor’s office statement. "She was a college student, who did nothing wrong. The officer was speeding and going 74 miles per hour on a street (construction zone) with a speed limit of 25 mph. It was dark and he did not use his siren. Jaanhavi was in a marked crosswalk when she was struck. We are pursuing our legal rights to obtain justice for Jaahnavi even though the city of Seattle has failed to do so," a statement from the family added.

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