Seattle Officer Who Struck and Killed Jaahnavi Kandula Will Not Face Charges |

Seattle Officer Who Struck and Killed Jaahnavi Kandula Will Not Face Charges |

NEW DELHI: The King County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that it will not file criminal charges against Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave, who struck and killed 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula while responding to an overdose call in January 2023.
The prosecutor’s office said it lacks sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dave acted with criminal negligence or recklessness, as required by Washington State law.
The decision sparked outrage from Kandula’s family and friends, who accused the prosecutor’s office of failing to deliver justice and accountability for her death.
Why it matters

  • Kandula’s death is one of several cases that have raised questions about the use of force and accountability of Seattle police officers in recent years.
  • Kandula, who was from India, was a graduate student at the University of Washington, studying computer science and engineering. She was described by her loved ones as a brilliant, kind, and compassionate person who had a bright future ahead of her.
  • Her death also drew attention to the issue of pedestrian safety in Seattle, where more than 20 people were killed by vehicles in 2023, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

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The big picture

  • Dave was driving 74 mph in a 30 mph zone when he hit Kandula, who was crossing the street at a marked crosswalk on January 23, 2023, according to the Seattle Police Department.
  • Dave was responding to a “priority one” call for a drug overdose, which requires officers to use lights and sirens. However, Dave did not have his siren activated continuously, and only “chirped” it at the intersection where he struck Kandula, according to the police report.
  • Dave’s body-worn camera footage showed that he did not slow down or swerve to avoid Kandula, who was thrown 100 feet by the impact. Dave did not render aid to Kandula, who died at the scene, according to the police report.
  • Another Seattle police officer, Daniel Auderer, who arrived at the scene shortly after the collision, was caught on his body-worn camera making insensitive and derogatory comments about Kandula, such as “she had limited value” and “she was 26 anyway.”
  • Auderer was pulled from patrol in September 2023 and reassigned to a non-operational position, pending a disciplinary hearing scheduled for March 4, 2024. He faces the possibility of termination for his unprofessional conduct, according to the Office of Police Accountability.

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What they’re saying

  • In a statement released Wednesday, the King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said: “Kandula’s death is heartbreaking and impacted communities in King County and across the world.”
  • Manion said that after reviewing all the available evidence, she determined that there was not enough proof to charge Dave with vehicular homicide or manslaughter, which require showing that he acted with criminal negligence or recklessness.
  • Manion said that Dave’s speed alone was not enough to establish criminal liability, and that he had a legal justification to drive above the speed limit while responding to an emergency call.
  • Manion also said that she found the comments made by Auderer “appalling and deeply troubling,” but that they did not affect her legal analysis of Dave’s conduct.
  • Manion said that she met with Kandula’s family and their attorney on Tuesday to inform them of her decision, and that she expressed her “deepest condolences” to them.
  • In a press release issued Wednesday, Kandula’s family and their attorney said that they were “devastated and outraged” by the prosecutor’s decision, and that they felt “betrayed” by the justice system.
  • They said that Dave’s actions were “clearly reckless and negligent,” and that he should be held accountable for killing Kandula.
  • They said that they will continue to pursue civil action against Dave and the Seattle Police Department, and that they will seek legislative changes to ensure that no other family has to endure what they have gone through.
  • They also said that they demand the immediate termination of Auderer, who they said “mocked and dehumanized” Kandula in a “vile and disgusting” manner.
  • They said that they appreciate the support and solidarity they have received from the community, and that they hope that Kandula’s legacy will inspire others to pursue their dreams and make the world a better place.

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What next

  • Officer Auderer, who was reassigned following the incident, faces potential dismissal with his disciplinary hearing scheduled for March 4. Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department’s protocols and the officer’s response to the emergency call are under scrutiny, with the community and Kandula’s family awaiting accountability and changes to prevent future tragedies.

(With inputs from agencies)

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