An effervescent young woman with a bubbly laugh and a radiant smile. A stellar student on the cusp of earning her master’s degree. A beloved daughter making her mark thousands of miles from home.
That’s how Jaahnavi Kandula’s loved ones describe the 23-year-old graduate student from India who, police say, was fatally struck in a Seattle crosswalk in January by a city police car responding to a call.
Now, almost eight months later, Kandula’s family and friends are grieving yet again following the release of body-worn police camera footage that captured a phone conversation in which a Seattle officer laughs and suggests $11,000 as compensation following her death.
The video’s release last week has sparked outrage across the nation, especially within the South Asian diaspora – inspiring rallies, meetings with elected officials and online petitions demanding justice for Kandula. It’s also grabbed the attention of onscreen celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Lilly Singh, who have posted online about her death.
“To know that Jaahnavi did what only a small percentage of girls in India have the opportunity to do, which is get an education and that too abroad, but have her life taken and dismissed in this way is simply heartbreaking and unjust to the highest degree,” Singh wrote on Instagram.
“At what point does the world stop dismissing the value of girls and women, specifically Indian girls and women?”
A day after Kandula was fatally struck, Officer Daniel Auderer – a “drug recognition expert” – was sent to see if the officer whose vehicle hit her had been impaired, police documents show. In police footage from that day, Auderer can be heard explaining how he thinks she was hit.
“But she is dead,” Auderer says January 23 before laughing, apparently in response to the person on the phone.
“No, it’s a regular person,” Auderer then says. Moments later, he replies: “Yeah, just write a check” and laughs.
“Yeah, $11,000. She was 26 anyway,” he adds, mistaking Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.”
Auderer “intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers,” he wrote in an August 8 letter to the city’s Office of Police Accountability released Friday by the Seattle Police Officers Guild. “I was imitating what a lawyer tasked with negotiating the case would be saying and being sarcastic to express that they shouldn’t be coming up with crazy arguments to minimize the payment.”
“The comment was not made with malice or a hard heart,” Auderer wrote of what he said while on the phone January 23…