Jaahnavi Kandula was a compassionate and intelligent graduate student from India. Unfortunately, her life was taken by the negligent driving of one Seattle police officer, and her death was mocked by another.
Jaahnavi was raised by her single mother, an elementary school teacher, in Andhra Pradesh, India. She was mere months away from graduating with a Master’s Degree in Information Systems in December 2023 from Northeastern University. According to the Hindustan Times, Jaanhnavi’s uncle had mentioned how her mother struggled with financial debt so that Jaahnavi could pursue higher education. Additionally, he expands on how devoted and loving Jaahnavi was, stating that she wanted to help support her family post-graduation.
Of course, the trauma of her only child dying in such a manner left Jaahnavi’s mother heartbroken. Furthermore, Jaahnavi’s grandfather reported that Jaahnavi’s mother refuses to leave the house or even eat due to the devastation. The sheer carelessness and apathy exhibited by the police officers has also shocked and tormented Jaahnavi’s family and loved ones. They demand justice, describing her as “a beloved daughter making her mark thousands of miles from home,” according to CNN.
Details about the tragic incident
On January 23, 2023, Jaanhavi was hit by a police car reaching top speed at the intersection of Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Avenue. The driver, Seattle police officer Kevin Dave, was on his way to the site of a reported drug overdose. In doing so, he drove through the intersection at a whopping 74 mph in a 25 mph speed limit zone. Washington State Law states that authorized emergency vehicles may exceed speed limits, but the driver should not endanger life or property while doing so. Reportedly, Jaahnavi’s body was thrown more than 100 feet away due to the impact. After Jaahnavi was transported to Harborview Medical Center, she tragically died from her injuries.
Later, another Seattle police officer named Daniel Auderer, a supposed “drug recognition expert,” was instructed to examine whether or not Dave was impaired during the incident. Auderer’s body-cam footage was released earlier this month. In it, his disturbing follow-up report to the guild president, Mike Solan, can be heard. He laughs for a while about Jaahnavi’s death.
Additionally, Auderer comments that since Jaahnavi was just “a regular person,” it’d be enough to write out a check of $11,000 in response. He continues to incorrectly report her age, stating that “she was 26 anyway; she had limited value”. Furthermore, Auderer also found it appropriate to lie to Solan about the speed at which Dave was driving. Specifically, Auderer stated that the vehicle was not out-of-control as it was going at about 50 mph.
Though the tragedy occurred in January, the Seattle Police Department released Auderer’s body-cam footage this month “in the interest of transparency.”
The video was released on their YouTube channel. If you choose to view it, please proceed with caution due to the disturbing nature of Auderer’s comments.
Auderer’s concerning background
What makes this case even scarier is the fact that Auderer is the Vice President of the guild. Yet, he clearly lacks the credentials to back that title up. It’s not just in this case where he, according to CNN, “believed the conversation was private and not being recorded.” According to DivestSPD, Auderer has a lengthy history of violence.
This history includes the verbal abuse and rough arrest of two Mexican immigrants under a false pretext; beating and causing permanent brain damage to a mentally ill man; punching and choking a homeless man in an ER; using unnecessary and excessive force against a Black woman who was already in handcuffs; punching a woman in the face; violating a person’s Miranda rights and failing to report the arrest to a supervisor; making condescending comments about a woman’s mental health during a traffic stop; and alleged sexual assault.
To call his actions criminal would be a severe understatement. How he managed to become the guild’s Vice President should be considered when analyzing the proficiency and integrity of the Seattle Police Department in its supposed mission to “prevent crime, enforce laws, and support quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services.”
Response by Auderer and the Seattle Police Department
The Seattle Community Police Commission, which oversees the city’s police department, recommends that Auderer should be placed on unpaid leave as further investigation continues. However, one should note that this recommendation ISN’T binding. As for Auderer, it’s clear that he’s only tried to make a statement since he realized his comments were public. In other words, he’s only sorry that he’s caught. Specifically, Auderer reached out via a written statement to conservative radio show host Jason Rantz.
On the radio show, Rantz states that this was the same statement Auderer had sent to Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability once he realized his body-cam footage had been released. According to the Hindustan Times, Auderer explains in the statement his supposed intention behind the insensitive comments. He states that he wanted to “mimic how the city’s attorneys might react to the death.”
CNN has also reported on what the Seattle Community Police Commission had to say about Auderer’s explanation. They state that “the reported explanation that he was mocking lawyers does not make this unprofessional and inhumane conduct any better because it shows…a callous dismissiveness toward police accountability systems”. They accurately pinpoint Auderer for who he truly is: a callous man who should never hold any position of power. After all, he has shown time and time again that he will only abuse it.
A much-needed call for action
Unfortunately, cases of police brutality and insensitivity are all too common in the United States. They have been throughout history. We see that despite Auderer’s extensive violent history, he maintains his position of power as the guild’s Vice President. Because the Seattle Police Department has allowed Auderer to maintain this power, he continually abuses it without respect for human life. The systemic violence, racism, and oppression within U.S. police systems keep all people living in the country in danger. Who do we call when those who are there to “serve and protect” us put us in danger?
Many people will try to state that “not all cops are bad.” To those people, I’d like to mention that there have been more than enough horror stories like Jaahnavi’s for the general fear of cops to be valid. Additionally, I’d like to ask those people: how many people must succumb to police brutality before it becomes a big enough issue for you? To gain more insight into the statistics behind police brutality, visit the Police Brutality Center’s Website here. Auderer has stated how little value Jaahnavi’s life meant in his eyes. The truth is, that’s how it is to all the bad cops out there. They have no value for the lives they’re meant to protect. Rather, they get off on having power and authority over them. If the system that keeps reinforcing those heinous behaviors doesn’t change, how much value does the law truly give us vulnerable people?
Contribute to the Justice for Jaahnavi movement!
With that being said, how can we help to get justice for Jaahnavi? First, we should sign petitions dedicated to the Justice for Jaahnavi movement.
As demonstrated many times historically, there is power in unity. Additionally, we can further educate ourselves on police brutality and hold others accountable for their dismissal of it. By doing this, we can create an environment where the system will be pushed even further to change. After all, the worst thing that can happen is to turn a blind eye and allow history to repeat itself.
Finally, as we continue to vote for the leaders of our country, we should consider if their values truly align with the protection of the American people or the upholding of a systemically racist police force that will never be held accountable.