Seattle police officer heard joking after Indian student’s death taken off patrol duty

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WASHINGTON: An officer and police union officer who was being investigated over a body camera recording of him laughing and joking about the death of an Indian student earlier this year, has been taken off patrol duty, US-based The Seattle Times reported.

The Seattle Police Department said that Officer Daniel Auderer “has been administratively reassigned to a non-operational position,” the report said.

Auderer, a member of the Seattle Police Department’s traffic squad and vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, came under investigation earlier this month after footage from his body camera was released that showed him laughing and joking during a phone call after another officer, Kevin Dave, struck and killed a 23-year-old student, Jaahnavi Kandula, according to The Seattle Times report.

Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old from India, was pursuing a master’s degree at Northeastern University’s campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighbourhood. On January 23, Kandula was killed at Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Street when Officer Kevin Dave hit her while responding to an overdose call.

According to the investigation, Kevin Dave was driving 74 mph in a 25-mph zone just before he hit Kandula. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case, considering whether to pursue charges against Dave.

Officer Daniel Auderer left his body camera running and it showed him appearing to joke and bursting into laughter over the death of an Indian student.

In the footage, Auderer is driving and can be heard talking about the accident that involved 23-year-old graduate student Kandula in a call with the guild’s president Mike Solan. In the video, Auderer can be heard saying “she is dead” before bursting out into laughter.

Referring to Kandula, Auderer said, “No, it’s a regular person.” Towards the end of the clip, he can be heard saying, through bursts of laughter, “Yeah, just write a check. Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” misstating the age of the victim. He further said, “She had limited value,” New York Post reported.

Auderer visited the site of the incident to carry out a drug test on Dave, New York Post reported. Timestamps on the bodycam footage revealed that he was revealing details regarding the incident in his call to another colleague the following evening.

On September 16, members of the Seattle area’s South Asian community took out a march to the site where a police officer struck and killed Indian national Jaahnavi Kandula with his patrol car in January, The Seattle Times reported.

Protesters at the march held on Saturday demanded sensitivity and respect after the release this week of a body-camera video showing a police union leader laughing and joking shortly after the incident.

About 100 people gathered at Denny Park on Saturday and made their way to the intersection where Kandula was hit and killed. People while carrying out a march held signs saying “Jaahnavi had more value than SPD” and “Justice for Jaahnavi, jail killer cops,” The Seattle Times reported.

The rally was put together by UTSAV, an organization based in Bothell that helps connect South Asians with their communities.

Addressing the crowd, US Representative Vandana Slatter said, “We’re not a monolith, the Indian community.” She said, “There’s diaspora in the community, but we are all united today,” according to The Seattle Times report.

On August 2, Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability launched a probe after an SPD employee, going through the body camera video for the investigation, was upset by the conversation and reported it to an SPD lawyer.

The video of Auderer has sparked outrage over the officer’s comments. Chief Chief Adrian Diaz has said that he has met with representatives of the Indian and Asian communities about the hurt the incident has caused. (ANI)

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