A Seattle Police officer, who joked about the tragic death of a 23-year-old Indian student earlier this year, has been removed from patrol duty. This action comes weeks following demands from the local south Asian community in Seattle for appropriate measures against the officer.
Jaahnavi Kandula was killed by an over-speeding police car while crossing a street in January.
The department Thursday (28) confirmed by email that Officer Daniel Auderer “has been administratively reassigned to a non-operational position,” said a report in The Seattle Times.
Auderer was a member of the SPD’s traffic squad and vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.
The police department had released footage from a body-cam earlier this month in which Auderer can be seen laughing about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication that another officer, Kevin Dave, might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary, the report said.
Dave was responding to a report of an overdose and driving at 74 mph (about 119 kmph) in a 25-mph zone when he struck Kandula, who was thrown more than 100 feet. The video footage showed Auderer, who was involved in the investigation, calling Kandula a “regular person” and suggesting that the department “write a check”.
“USD 11,000. She was 26 anyway,” he said, misstating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value,” Auderer is seen as saying.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case, considering whether to pursue charges against Dave, the report said.
About 15 days ago, the Seattle Community Police Commission recommended the city police chief to relieve Auderer from duty and withhold his pay.
Earlier last week, about 25 members of the Hindu community had organised a prayer ceremony for Kandula at Denny Park.
The Shanti Puja, a Hindu prayer ceremony, is performed to invoke peace and blessings for the departed soul. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco earlier this month had voiced its concern over the handling of Kandula’s death as “deeply troubling.”
“We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case. The Consulate and Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities,” the mission had posted on Twitter.