Outrage over student’s death by police vehicle: US assures action, probe as India envoy raises matter with authorities

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WASHINGTON: The US has assured the Centre of quick investigation into the death of Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula in Seattle after being struck by a speeding police patrol car in January. The Biden administration has also promised to bring the police officers “responsible for it” to justice.
This comes as India “strongly” took up the case with authorities in the US, following the release of a bodycam video in which a policeman is heard joking and laughing about the student’s death. India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, 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.
Kandula, 23, 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.
Even though the accident took place in January, local authorities released the video footage only on Monday, when they initiated an investigation.
Law officials probing cops for ‘downplaying’ death
Seattle law officials are probing several police officers after the body-camera clips showed them “downplaying” her death and saying that her life had “limited value”.
Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) vice-president Daniel Auderer, who was heading to the scene to conduct a drug recognition test on Officer Dave, reported the incident to SPOG president Mike Solan.
Part of their conversation conducted from a police cruiser ran like this: “I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, and then when he hit the brakes threw off the car. But she is dead… (cackling laughter).
“No, it’s a regular person,” he continues, “Yeah, just write a check (laughs)… 11,000 dollars… she was 26 anyway… she had limited value.”
Auderer’s insensitive conversation also contains several inaccuracies. He incorrectly states 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.
According to local media reports, Auderer 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. “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,” the officer said. SPD said it released the video “in the interest of transparency,” but will not comment further on it until the OPA (Office of Police Accountability) finishes its investigation.
‘Incident deeply troubling’
US lawmakers and members of the Indian-American community have also strongly condemned the incident. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco termed the handling of the case as “deeply troubling”.
Senior administration officials have reportedly assured both the Ambassador and the Indian government of their serious commitment to the case. They are closely monitoring the investigation’s progress from Washington to ensure accountability.
(With agency inputs)



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