Outside agency to investigate the death of Jaahnavi Kandula

Oct 19, 2023, 5:39 PM

Image: Student Jaahnavi Kandula...

Student Jaahnavi Kandula (Photo courtesy of Jaahnavi Kandula's GoFundMe)

(Photo courtesy of Jaahnavi Kandula's GoFundMe)

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) announced Thursday that it has hired an outside agency to investigate the Jan. 23 death of Jaahnavi Kandula after she was hit and killed by a Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer.

The ACES Inc. was hired to review all material in the case involving SPD Officer Kevin Dave that caused Kandula’s death, KCPAO spokesperson Casey McNerthney said in a statement emailed to KIRO Newsradio Thursday. ACES, which is based in Edmonds, bills itself as “a full-service accident reconstruction and collision analysis firm, serving the greater Pacific Northwest since 2006.”

Video and materials submitted to the KCPAO by police investigators were sent to the ACES on Sept. 21. McNerthney said that in addition to “reviewing that video and applicable state laws, the firm may do measurements and dynamic scene reconstruction.”

McNerthney added that ACES is expected to send the KCPAO a report of their findings and said prosecutors from the Felony Traffic Unit and our criminal division plan to review the report as part of the office’s charging decision.

“Having an outside expert analysis of the criminal investigation materials will help inform our pending charging decision,” McNerthney said in his statement.

There’s no timeline on when this review might be complete, though the KCPAO doesn’t anticipate having an update until November.

What happened on the night of Jan. 23

On Jan. 23, Officer Dave was responding to a call about an overdose when he was approaching a marked crosswalk at Dexter Avenue N and Thomas Street just after 8 p.m. Dave had been driving 74 mph in a 25-mph zone on he headed to a drug overdose call. He started braking less than a second before hitting Kandula, according to a detective’s report. The report said Dave was driving 63 mph when he hit the woman.

“The speed at which (Officer Dave) was traveling did not allow (Kandula) or him sufficient time to detect, address and avoid a hazard that presented itself,” an SPD analysis of the collision concluded.

SPD report: Officer was driving 74 mph before the accident that killed Kandula

The SUV’s emergency lights had been activated, and Dave had “chirped” his siren at other intersections and used it immediately before the collision, the report said, adding Kandula was thrown 138 feet.

After the accident, the officer started to weep as colleagues hugged him and checked in on him, Jason Rantz of KTTH reported this week.

“Lights were on, was chirping the siren as I was headed down,” the officer said on bodycam footage obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “She was in the crosswalk, she saw me, she started running through the crosswalk. Slammed on my brakes. Instead of staying back where she should before crossing, she just zips …”

Investigators questioned three witnesses and they were all “similar in nature and no glaring discrepancies between them,” according to the case investigation report. All three confirmed the officer’s lights were flashing and that the siren chirped. Two of the witnesses helped piece together what happened to Kandula.

More from Jason Rantz: Video, witnesses clear Seattle officer in Kandula’s death

Witness “J.K.” said Kandula “didn’t seem to be aware of the car” when she crossed the street, though concedes he did not see how she initially crossed the crosswalk. Witness “M.R.,” however, did. She said she didn’t think either the officer or Kandula saw each other.

“I heard a siren. I would presume the pedestrian also heard a siren,” she said according to audio of the interview obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I observed them (Kandula) beginning to run presumably, to exit the roadway, as they heard a siren approaching. And then I heard a loud thump.”

“I observed the pedestrian begin to run as the siren sounded,” she continued.

In a follow-up interview, M.R. told the officer, “I believe the pedestrian likely also heard the siren … and … I saw her like to start to move faster as though like ‘I need to get out of the street, there’s a siren coming,'” she concluded.

From Gee & Ursula: Naming officer in pedestrian death was appropriate

Officer Daniel Auderer’s involvement

Officer Daniel Auderer, who is vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), was assigned to perform a routine sobriety test on Dave after he hit Kandula.

Auderer ended up leaving his body camera on during a phone call to SPOG President Mike Solan after leaving the crash scene.

In the recording, only Auderer can be heard speaking. He underplays the crash, inaccurately saying Dave was driving 50 mph at the time. Then he can be heard laughing and calling Kandula a “regular person.” He also suggests Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should just write a check for $11,000.

More on Auderer’s comments: SPOG releases apology after video captures officer’s out-of-context statements

SPOG said in a statement that the recorded conversation had been taken out of context and that the two men were mocking how the city’s lawyers might try to minimize liability for Kandula’s death.

SPD said in a short statement to KIRO Newsradio last month that Auderer has been “administratively reassigned to a non-operational position.”

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability is reviewing the Auderer case.

That investigation is separate from the one the KCPAO is conducting in the Dave case, McNerthney said.

Contributing: Jason Rantz, KTTH; L.B. Gilbert and Frank Sumrall, MyNorthwest; The Associated Press

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Outside agency to investigate the death of Jaahnavi Kandula