India had “strongly” taken up the case with the Biden administration after a recently released bodycam video showed an American cop “joking and laughing” about the Indian student’s death.
‘She had limited value’
In remarks that have outraged the Indian community, officer Daniel Auderer dismissed any implication that a fellow officer might be at fault after the accident or that a criminal investigation was even necessary.
Auderer called the student a “regular person” who had “limited value”, all the while laughing about the horrific incident.
In another clip, the officer incorrectly stated the victim’s age as 26, whereas she was 23.
Furthermore, Auderer mentions that Dave was “going 50 (miles an hour),” asserting “that’s not out of control” for a trained driver. However, according to the reports cited in local media, he was actually traveling at 74 miles an hour.
Kandula, a student at Washington’s Northeastern University, was struck at a pedestrian crossing on the night of January 23 by a police car driven by officer Kevin Dave travelling at 74 mph (119 kmph) in a 25-mph (40 kmph) zone.
According to reports, Kandula was thrown more than 100 feet after the impact.
The bodycam footage, which was released only this Monday, prompted a huge backlash from the Indian community and the consulate in San Francisco.
India’s ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, strongly raised the issue at the highest level in Washington and sought prompt action on the killing of Kandula, and the “highly insensitive behaviour” of the police officer in Seattle in Washington state.
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco on Wednesday termed the handling of Kandula’s death as “deeply troubling”.
Recent reports including in media of the handling of Ms Jaahnavi Kandula’s death in a road accident in Seattle in January are deeply troubling. We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle & Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC
— India in SF (@CGISFO) September 13, 2023
“We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case,” the mission said in a post on platform X.
“The Consulate & Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities,” it added.
Addressing the US cop directly, US Congressman Ro Khanna said on X that “the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value”.
“Jaahnavi Kandula came here for graduate work from India. She was killed on a crosswalk by a speeding police car, & Officer Auderer said her life had “limited value.” I thought of my Dad who came here in his 20s. Mr. Auderer, the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value,” he said.
Jaahnavi Kandula came here for graduate work from India. She was killed on a crosswalk by a speeding police car, & Officer Auderer said her life had “limited value.” I thought of my Dad who came here in his 20s. Mr. Auderer, the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) September 14, 2023
Khanna added that anyone who thinks that a human life has “limited value” should not be serving in law enforcement.
Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said: “This is appalling. I hope to see justice for Jaahnavi Kandula’s family and accountability for those involved.”
Expressing condolences on the untimely passing of Kandula, community leader Ajay Bhutoria said her death reminds of the importance of safety and respect for all individuals in the community.
“We are deeply troubled by the unfortunate statement and poor conduct displayed by a Seattle police officer during this incident. Regardless of one’s background or circumstances, every individual deserves dignity, fairness, and compassion,” he said.
‘Taking this very seriously’
Following the outrage, the Biden administration assured the Indian government of a quick investigation into the incident and bringing to justice the police officers who were responsible for it.
Senior administration officials assured the ambassador and the Indian government that the entire incident has been taken very seriously by them.
They are monitoring its investigation from Washington DC the progress of the case to ensure that there is adequate accountability.
Officials also said that they were “shocked” and “horrified” at this incident.
Meanwhile, the Seattle law officials also said they are probing the police officers after the body-camera clips showed them “downplaying” the student’s death.
According to local media reports, the officer provided a written statement in which he acknowledged that anyone solely listening to his side of the conversation “would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life.”
However, he emphasized that his comment was “not made with malice or a callous intent”.
“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.
Defending his insensitive remarks, the officer further said: “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.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to the Kandula family, Seattle City Mayor Bruce Harrell said that the comments made by one person do not reflect the feelings of the city or the communities that call it home.
“We recognise that Jaahnavi’s death is a loss for our whole community – the loss of a young woman who had so much life ahead of her to do amazing things and share that joy with loved ones,” Harrell said in his communication to the Kandula family.
(With inputs from PTI)
Watch ‘She was 26… had limited value’: Video shows US cops joking about Indian student knocked dead by police car