Washington: The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild has backed its official who joked about the tragic death of Jaahnavi Kandula, an Indian student who was hit by a police car driven by another officer. Kandula, 23, was crossing a street in Seattle on January 23 when she was struck by Officer Kevin Dave, who was driving at 74 mph (more than 119 km) to respond to a drug overdose call. Kandula was flung 100 feet by the impact.
The bodycam footage released on Monday by the Seattle Police Department showed Officer Daniel Auderer laughing about the fatal crash and dismissing any need for a criminal investigation or accountability. In the video, Auderer can be heard saying, “Yeah, just write a cheque. USD 11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.” The police union said in a statement on Friday that the video only captured one side of the conversation and that there was more information that was not revealed yet. It also released a letter written by Auderer to the Office of Police Accountability, in which he said that he intended the comment as a sarcasm to criticize lawyers.
Auderer claimed that his comment that the city should just write a cheque was taken out of context during a private call he did not know was being recorded by his body camera. In the letter dated August 3, Auderer said he laughed at how ridiculous these incidents are handled by the legal system and how he has seen these incidents turn into bargaining over a tragedy.
“I believed the conversation was private and not being recorded. The conversation was also not within the course of my duties,” he wrote in his letter to Gino Betts, director Office of Police Accountability. “On January 23, 2023, I was dispatched from home to assist with a fatality collision involving a city vehicle,” he said.
“While en route home I called Mike Solan to give him an update regarding what had occurred. The phone call was inadvertently recorded on my BWV which had turned on. The conversation took place in my patrol car. I was the only occupant. During that phone call Mike Solan stated something to the effect that it was unfortunate that this would turn into lawyers arguing ‘The value of human life’,” he wrote. “Mike Solan asked me as he was lamenting the loss of life something similar to: ‘What crazy argument can a lawyer make in something like this? What crazy thing can they come up with.’ 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 minimize the payment,” Auderer wrote.
Auderer said he understood that without context, the comment could be seen as horrifying and crude. Without context, the comment is insensitive to the family of the victim when in reality he was involved in a conversation regarding the callousness of the legal system. At the time he had no idea who the victim was,” he wrote.
Auderer said he did understand that if a citizen were to hear it they would rightfully believe he was being insensitive to the loss of a human life. “I also understand that if heard it could damage public trust in law enforcement,” he wrote.