UNITED STATES NEWS

Seattle police officer who struck and killed graduate student from India won’t face felony charges

Feb 21, 2024, 4:15 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state said Wednesday they will not file felony charges against a Seattle police officer who struck and killed a graduate student from India while responding to an overdose call — a case that attracted widespread attention after another officer was recorded making callous remarks about it.

Officer Kevin Dave was driving 74 mph (119 kph) on a street with a 25 mph (40 kph) speed limit in a police SUV before he hit 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula in a crosswalk on Jan. 23, 2023.

In a memo to the Seattle Police Department on Wednesday, the King County prosecutor’s office noted that Dave had on his emergency lights, that other pedestrians reported hearing his siren, and 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: “There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ofc. Dave was consciously disregarding safety,” the memo said.

It remains possible that city prosecutors could file lesser charges, such as negligent driving. Tim Robinson, a spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, said Wednesday that the case had not been referred to it for possible misdemeanor prosecution, and the Seattle Police Department did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry about whether it might refer the case to that office.

Kandula’s death ignited outrage, especially after a recording from another officer’s body-worn camera surfaced last September, in which that officer laughs and suggests that Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should “just write a check.”

Diplomats from India as well as local protesters sought an investigation. The city’s civilian watchdog, the Office of Police Accountability, found last month that the comments by Officer Daniel Auderer — the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild — damaged the department’s reputation and undermined public trust on a scale that is difficult to measure.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz is weighing Auderer’s punishment.

The comments were “derogatory, contemptuous, and inhumane,” wrote Gino Betts Jr., director of the accountability office.

In a statement to the office, Auderer acknowledged that his remarks — during a call with Mike Solan, the police union’s president — sounded callous, but that they were intended to mock a legal system that would try to put a value on Kandula’s life.

King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion called Kandula’s death heartbreaking, but she said Auderer’s “appalling” comments did not change the legal analysis of whether Dave should be charged.

“It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer’s comment,” rather than the prosecutor’s office, Manion said.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The union has said the comments were “highly insensitive” but also taken out of context.

Kandula was a graduate student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus.

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Seattle police officer who struck and killed graduate student from India won’t face felony charges