'An unfillable void': Grad student's family speaks out as outrage over Seattle officer body camera video grows

There has been an investigation launched following the officer's comments.

September 15, 2023, 8:54 PM

The family of 23-year-old Northeastern University graduate student Jaahnavi Kandula, who died after being struck by a Seattle police officer in January, is speaking out just days after body camera video appears to show a different officer joking about the incident.

PHOTO: Jaahnavi Kandula died after being struck by a Seattle police officer who was responding to a call earlier this year.
Jaahnavi Kandula died after being struck by a Seattle police officer who was responding to a call earlier this year.
Courtesy The Kandula Family

“Jaahnavi was a brilliant student with a promising future. Her radiant smile and bubbly personality warmed the hearts of everyone she met, and she had a natural ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Jaahnavi's untimely and tragic accident has left her family with an unfillable void in their lives,” the student’s family told ABC News in a statement.

“It is truly disturbing and saddening to hear insensible comments on the bodycam video from an SPD officer regarding Jaahnavi's death,” the statement continued. “Jaahnavi is a beloved daughter and beyond any dollar value for her mother and family. We firmly believe that every human life is invaluable and not be belittled, especially during a tragic loss.”

On Monday, The Seattle Police Department (SPD) released a two-and-a-half-minute video in which Seattle officer Daniel Auderer appears to be joking about Kandula’s death.

“The following video was identified in the routine course of business by a department employee, who, concerned about the nature of statements heard on that video, appropriately escalated their concerns,” SPD said in a statement issued to accompany the release of the video.

The video captured a conversation between Auderer, who serves as vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, and Mike Solan, a fellow officer and President of the Guild, the morning after Kandula was struck by Officer Kevin Dave as he responded to what police have referred to as a priority one call.

“Just write a check (laughs), $11,000,” Auderer said in the video, “She was 26 anyway. She had limited value.”

On January 23, Kandula was struck by SPD Officer Kevin Dave as he was responding to a call. According to a SPD statement issued the day of the incident, officers arrived and found Kandula with life-threatening injuries. Police performed CPR while waiting for the arrival of the Seattle Fire Department and she was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.

The following morning, Kandula died from her injuries. The SPD traffic collision investigation squad launched an investigation into the incident.

On Wednesday, The Seattle Office of Police Accountability said in a tweet that they had opened an investigation following Auderer’s comments.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Seattle Police Officers Guild said the Guild “understands the attention and outrage surrounding the viral video which captures highly insensitive comments regarding the death of Jaahnavi Kandula by Officer Dan Auderer,” but adds that the video lacks context.

“Some viral videos of police actions shared by media, fail to explain the full story/context. This Seattle Police video is an example of that reality. The video captures only one side of the conversation,” the statement read. “There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet… SPOG has full confidence that the civilian led police accountability system known as the Office of Police Accountability / OPA will conduct a thorough and fair investigation.”

The statement also said that Auderer has taken steps to hold himself accountable, including taking ownership of his actions upon being made aware of the existence of the video, and included a statement Auderer had sent to Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability’s Director Gino Betts addressing the incident.

“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. At the time I had no idea who the victim was,” Audered wrote in the statement to Bett.

On Thursday, dozens gathered at a rally in Seattle, near the site of the collision, to demand justice for Jaahnavi Kandula.

“What SPOG is releasing is nothing more than damage control,” Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (SAARPR), which organized the rally, told ABC News in a statement. “They understand the magnitude of what they did now that they are facing the backlash, and we know they don't care because they didn't make statements until they faced backlash.”

The Seattle police officers involved in the incident did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

On Friday, the Seattle Police Department told ABC News that, because this is an ongoing investigation, the department is unable to comment on the employment status of the officers involved in this incident. OPA said they have until January 29 to complete its investigation and issue findings.

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