MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle attorney’s office files citation regarding officer who killed Jaahnavi Kandula

Mar 1, 2024, 6:29 PM | Updated: Mar 3, 2024, 7:46 pm

Image: Student Jaahnavi Kandula...

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

(Photo courtesy of Jaahnavi Kandula's GoFundMe)

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office (CAO) Criminal Division filed a traffic infraction with the Seattle Municipal Court regarding the officer who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula in January 2023, according to a news release from the CAO on Friday.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced on Feb. 21 that it would not charge Seattle Police Department Officer Kevin Dave in the death of Kandula.

More on the student’s death: Outside agency to investigate Jaahnavi Kandula incident

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) then made a referral to the CAO.

“The Seattle Police Department has referred a traffic infraction to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office involving Officer Kevin Dave in the tragic death of Jaahnavi Kandula. The referral is for a traffic infraction under Seattle Municipal Code 11.58.005.C, negligent driving in the second degree with a vulnerable user victim. That infraction carries a civil penalty with a fine up to $5,000,” wrote the CAO on Feb. 22.

Seattle City Attorney Anne Davison said she is passing the matter to the CAO Criminal Division Chief.

“I have delegated this matter to the CAO Criminal Division Chief and will maintain a clear separation between the CAO Criminal Division and the CAO Civil Division,” Davison said. “I have made this decision to avoid a conflict of interest, as events underlying this referral could require me, as Seattle City Attorney, to represent the City of Seattle in future related civil matters.”

Demonstrations: More protests following officer’s comments after death of Jaahnavi Kandula

What happened on Jan. 23, 2023

Dave hit and killed the 23-year-old student on Jan. 23, 2023. According to an SPD detective’s report, Dave had been driving 74 mph in a 25-mph zone, with his sirens on, as he headed to a drug overdose call. Investigators say he hit Kandula while she was in a marked crosswalk.

Dave was responding to a “priority one” call when he approached a marked crosswalk at Dexter Avenue N and Thomas Street just after 8 p.m. that night.

“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.

Witness reports indicate Kandula and Officer Dave may not have seen each other, and one told investigators it appeared Kandula was attempting to run to get out of the way of the approaching siren when Dave struck her.

Investigators reviewed dashcam footage and confirmed the officer’s lights were flashing and siren chirping. The report says Kandula, at the time, was wearing black pants and a black jacket with a hood up over her head— possibly making her more difficult to see.

The investigation used frame-by-frame analysis to determine Kandula started to run across the crosswalk when the officer was driving in her direction. The report concludes, “Just before the collision, Kandula transitioned from a walk to a run.”

Dave started braking less than a second before hitting Kandula, and struck her while driving 63 mph. She was thrown more than 100 feet into the air. Responding Seattle police officers performed CPR on her at the scene, but were unable to revive her.

After the accident, video from the scene shows Officer Dave becoming emotional as colleagues hugged him and checked in on him, Jason Rantz of KTTH reported.

Another SPD officer accused of mocking Kandula’s death

Seven months after Kandula’s death, in August 2023, new bodycam footage emerged that appeared to show a different SPD officer joking about the cost of potential lawsuits stemming from the crash.

The video captured Officer Daniel Auderer laughing and making comments the night Kandula died. Auderer had been assigned to perform a routine sobriety test on Dave after he struck the woman.

“Yeah, just write a check. Just $11,000,” Auderer is heard saying on the video. “She was 26. Anyway, she had limited value.”

The Seattle Police Officers Guild, of which Auderer serves as vice president, says Auderer self-reported his comments to the civilian watchdog group Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA) after he realized he had been recorded.

In a letter to OPA, Auderer said he was on the phone with Union President Mike Solan after he arrived at the scene of the crash to assess whether Officer Dave was impaired.

Auderer said he made the comment inside his patrol car and his body camera video “inadvertently” switched on. He said he and Solan were lamenting about a lawsuit that might result from Kandula’s death.

Auderer claimed Solan asked, “What crazy argument can a lawyer make in something like this?” And he replied, “Yeah, just write a check.”

Officer Auderer faces possible firing

Those higher up in the chain of the Seattle Police department appear to agree with OPA’s findings. According to a Seattle Times report, SPD commanders recommended possible termination for Auderer late last month.

“Even crediting your explanation as true, that does not excuse the callousness of your comments,” the commanders wrote to Auderer in a memo the Times obtained from SPD. “Nor does it explain your full-bellied laughter” while discussing Kandula’s death hours after the crash.

SPD Chief Adrian Diaz is scheduled to hold a disciplinary hearing Monday. At that time, Auderer will be given a last chance to explain himself.

Contributing: Kate Stone, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Seattle attorney’s office files citation regarding officer who killed Jaahnavi Kandula