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The Seattle cop who joked about the death of a graduate student who was fatally struck by a police cruiser while crossing the street defended his callous remarks in a statement released Friday.
Officer Daniel Auderer claimed his cold-hearted laughter at 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula’s death and jokes that the city should “just write a check” were taken out of context during a private call he didn’t know was being recorded by his department-issued body camera.
The cop had just responded to the Jan. 23 fatal crash and was speaking with Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan to update him when he made the remarks.
“She is dead,” Auderer says before bursting out laughing. “No, it’s a regular person,” he says, referring to Kandula.
The young woman was struck and killed by a police car driven by Officer Kevin Dave, who was reportedly going 74 mph in a 25-mph zone while responding to a different “high-priority” call.
Auderer, who is the guild’s vice president, told Solan that he did not believe a criminal investigation was being conducted because Dave wasn’t driving “out of control.”
At the end of the disturbing clip, Auderer cackled that the city should just pay for the devastation one of its officers caused: “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” he said, misstating the victim’s age. “She had limited value.”
After learning that his insensitive quips were in the hands of the department, Auderer submitted an Aug. 8 letter to the officer’s guild defending his actions and requesting an expedited employee misconduct investigation, the union said Friday.
Auderer claimed he was responding to comments made by Solan that were not picked up by the cameras in which he questioned what “crazy” arguments lawyers could spin the tragedy into surrounding the value of human life.
“I responded with something like: ‘She’s 26 years old, what value is there, who cares,’” Auderer stated.
“I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers – 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.”
Auderer asserted that his laughter was aimed at the ridiculousness of how incidents are litigated before pointing out that he didn’t realize his private conversation was being recorded.
“I understand that without context the comment could be interpreted as horrifying and crude. Without context the comment is insensitive to the family of the victim when in reality I was involved in a conversation regarding the callousness of the legal system,” he said.
The officers’ guild backed up Auderer’s claims of innocence, stating that the existing video that gained viral status in the immediate wake of its release fails to “explain the full story/context.”
The guild applauded Auderer for coming forward about the footage one month before it was publicly released, adding that more details surrounding the incident will be forthcoming.
The footage was released by the Seattle police department “in the interest of transparency” one day after the deadly collision was also uploaded to the Seattle Police Department’s YouTube page.
Kandula’s family said Wednesday it was “truly disturbing and saddening to hear insensible comments” that were made on the body-camera footage.
The exchange student had arrived at Northeastern University in Seattle from India to pursue a master’s of science information systems at the College of Engineering. She was due to graduate in December.
“Jaahnavi is a beloved daughter and beyond any dollar value for her mother and family,” the family said in a statement. “We firmly believe that every human life is invaluable and [should] not be belittled, especially during a tragic loss.”
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco called the handling of Kandula’s death “deeply troubling.”
“We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle & Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation & action against those involved in this tragic case,” the consulate said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The fatal collision is being investigated by the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the incident.