Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Jaahnavi case: Indian mission raises issue with US

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India’s consulate in Seattle has raised with authorities the case of Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula after the prosecution attorney said an overspeeding Seattle police officer who struck and killed her while responding to a drug overdose call will not face any criminal charges citing lack of “sufficient” evidence.
Kandula, 23, from Andhra Pradesh, was struck by a police vehicle driven by Officer Kevin Dave when she was crossing a street in Seattle on January 23 last year. He was driving 74 mph (more than 119 km/h) on the way to a report of a drug overdose call.
Kandula was thrown 100 feet when she was struck by the speeding police patrol vehicle.
In bodycam footage released by the Seattle Police Department, Officer Daniel Auderer laughed about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication Dave might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary.
On Wednesday, the King County Prosecutor’s Office said they would not move forward with criminal charges against Dave due to a lack of evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. India’s consulate in Seattle also said it was monitoring the progress in the case and will extend all possible support in ensuring justice for Kandula and her family.
“On the recently released investigation report of the King County Prosecution Attorney on the unfortunate death of Jaahnavi Kandula, the Consulate has been in regular touch with the designated family representatives and will continue to extend all possible support in ensuring justice for Jaahnavi and her family,” the mission said in a post on X.
“We have also raised the matter strongly with local authorities, including Seattle Police for appropriate redress. The case has now been referred to the Seattle City Attorney’s office for review,” the post said on Friday.
It also said the mission was waiting for the completion of Seattle Police’s administrative investigation and will continue monitoring the progress in the case.
Kandula’s family in a statement following the announcement said: “We are shocked and disappointed that the King County Prosecutor’s office has failed to criminally charge the Seattle police officer whose reckless behaviour killed Jaahnavi Kandula.”
“We are pursuing our legal rights to obtain justice for Jaahnavi even though the City of Seattle has failed to do so,” the statement added.
Fox 13 Seattle reported that nearly 100 people gathered outside the Seattle Police West Precinct on Friday to protest the decision by the King County Prosecutor’s Office not to file charges against Dave.
Protesters said there had been a lack of accountability for the officer. The demonstrators accused officers of caring more about themselves than the public, and treating Kandula as if her life didn’t matter.
“They are not public safety, they are a public hazard,” shouted one of the protesters.
“I struggle to understand how these people can go about their day, knowing they refused to let this go to court. It’s baffling,” said Raymond Mitchell, another protester.
In the statement on Wednesday, the King County Prosecuting Attorney said: “Kandula’s death is heartbreaking and impacted communities in King County and across the world.”
King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said that she believes they lack the evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, the statement said.
“It is the responsibility of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to review all available evidence relating to the case involving Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave and the January 2023 collision death of Jaahnavi Kandula. After staffing this case with senior deputy prosecuting attorneys and office leadership, I have determined that we lack sufficient evidence under Washington State law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The statement also said that the prosecutor’s office finds the comments made by Seattle Police Officer Daniel Auderer, recorded on his body-worn video, “appalling and deeply troubling”.
Auderer, who was not involved in the January collision, was captured in the video saying, “But she is dead” and laughing while on the phone.
She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said in the video. “She had limited value.”
“Officer Auderer’s comments were also unprofessional and undermined the public’s trust in the Seattle Police Department and law enforcement in general,” said Manion.
“As egregious as Officer Auderer’s comments are, they do not change the PAO’s legal analysis of the conduct of Officer Dave. It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer’s comment, not the PAO.”
Auderer was pulled from patrol in September 2023 and reassigned to a “non-operational position”.
Auderer could still be fired after the fallout of his insensitive comments captured on bodycam.
Seattle local media reported that speed was the cause of the collision, as the speed at which Dave was travelling did “not allow (Kandula) or him sufficient time to detect, address and avoid a hazard that presented itself”.
Dave was responding to a “priority one” call at the request of the Seattle Fire Department, according to the Seattle Police Department. According to the police report, the officer was responding to a report of a drug overdose.
The officer did not have his siren activated continuously. Instead, the officer “chirped” his siren at the intersection. He did have his emergency lights on, according to a previous statement from the police department.
In a memo to Seattle police, prosecutors wrote there was not enough evidence to prove Dave showed “conscious disregard for others safety”.
A drug recognition expert responded to the scene and found no impairment in the officer.
Former Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said if a civilian were behind the wheel, this would likely have been vehicular homicide. Dave’s status as an officer changes the calculus.
Lindquist pointed out that the standard of proof is much higher in criminal cases than in civil cases.
Kandula was a graduate student at Northeastern University at the Seattle campus. The university in January 2023 said they would award her degree posthumously and present it to her family.

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