Seattle Police Union Leadership Allegedly Laugh After Officer Kills Pedestrian While Driving 74MPH
Jaahnavi Kandula, age 23, was a college student crossing Dexter Avenue in a marked crosswalk in Seattle, WA on January 23, 2023. However, a recently unearthed conversation between leaders of the local police union has generated fresh anguish among the college community.
Officer Kevin Dave hit Kandula with his Ford sport utility vehicle, while driving 74mph moments before. Kandula was thrown about 100 feet as a result. Although he applied his brakes at the last moment, he was still going 63mph when he hit her. The speed limit was 25mph.
AirPods were found near the scene, but police have not conclusively determined that Kandula was wearing them during the incident. A witness alleges that Kandula began running midway through the crosswalk before she was hit.
Washington state law permits emergency responders to exceed speed limits provided that they are using audible signals and don’t endanger property or life. Officer Dave allegedly had his emergency lights on, and was responding to a call about someone overdoing on cocaine. The call was “Priority 1” meaning a person’s life was in danger. The incident occurred at about 8pm Pacific time.
After the incident, Officer Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, arrived on scene. He left his body camera on while speaking with the president of the guild, Mike Solan. The pair talked for two minutes. During the conversation, Auderer laughs several times and states at one point “Yeah, just write a check. “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value.” Auderer later stated in an interview that he was only mocking attorneys for bargaining over a tragedy, and denied that his comments were “made with any malice or a hard heart.”
Empathy Instead of Ratification
Officer Auderer’s comments could be construed as ratifying Officer Dave’s reckless speeding. Organizations are typically liable for the malicious actions of their members if an officer of the organization approved of the act beforehand, or approved of it after the fact. Auderer’s statements that Kandula’s life “had limited value” is extremely callous, especially since the young woman had only just passed away when Auderer said that.
Auderer contends that he was mocking attorneys who haggle over wrongful death suits. However, attorneys who demand money on behalf of wrongful death victims claim them on behalf of grieving family members. The attorneys who make counteroffers represent organizations like the Seattle Police Officers Guild, and men like Officers Auderer and Dave. Money cannot replace anyone’s life, but money can obtain the necessary therapy and counseling to help deal with a lost loved one, pay for funeral and burial expenses which can add up quickly, or pay for lost wages that the deceased’s dependents may have relied on. A personal injury settlement, even for a wrongful death case, has value even if it cannot replicate a person’s life.
For defendants, settlement checks are not, or should not be, perceived as a “get out of jail free card.” Settlements are often the bare minimum that a defendant like Seattle Police officers can do to compensate someone who was killed by their conduct. If Auderer was actually sincere, he would not be making callous jokes at Kandula’s expense. Instead, he would be offering his own support to Kandula’s friends and family. Perhaps if the Seattle Police showed a little more respect for the community, the people of Seattle might start to reciprocate that empathy for their police force.
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