Indian Consulate Intervenes After Reports of Seattle Police ‘Downplaying’ Death of Indian Student

The Indian consulate said that the media reports about the “handling” of Kandula’s death were “deeply troubling”.

New Delhi: The Indian consulate in San Francisco said that it has “strongly” taken up the handling of the death of an Indian national hit by a police car in Seattle, following which a body camera captured audio of the responding police officer joking and suggesting her life had “limited value”.

On Monday, The Seattle Times reported that the police watchdog agency was probing police union leaders over body camera audio laughing and joking to downplay the death of 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula, a student of Northeastern University.

The Indian consulate tweeted that the media reports about the “handling” of Kandula’s death were “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 & Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities,” said the Indian diplomatic mission.

In January this year, Kandula was hit by a police officer Kevin Dave who was on way to attend a call. Another police officer, Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, was assigned to check whether Dave was under any influence. As he inadvertently left his body camera on, it recorded a call made to the guild president Mike Solan.

As per the audio, Auderer laughed and said Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should “just write a check”. “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said misquoting her age and added “she had limited value”.

The 23-year-old student was going to graduate this year with a master’s degree in information systems.

Her uncle, Ashok Mandula told the media on Monday that the “family has nothing to say” after reports over the body camera audio. “Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life,” he added.

US Congressman Ro Khanna said on X, directed at Audered, that “the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value”.

Kandula was set to graduate this coming December with a master’s degree in information systems from the Seattle campus of Northeastern University. Her family said she was working toward supporting her mother in India. Instead, her uncle, Ashok Mandula, of Houston, had to make arrangements to send her body to her mother.

A conservative talk show host said that he obtained a statement from Auderer that his remarks would sound bad if taken out of context. 

The Seattle chief Adrian Diaz said that the department learnt of the conversation from an employee who overheard it during “routine course of business”.

Thereafter, the Seattle Police Department contacted the Office of Police Accountability in early August, which is currently doing the investigation.