Shocking: No charges against Seattle police officer who rammed into and killed Indian student Jaanhavi Kandula


Prosecutors in King County, Washington State have announced that they will not file criminal charges against a Seattle police officer whose Seattle Police patrol vehicle struck and killed 23-year-old Indian student Jaanhavi Kandula in January 2023.

Kandula was walking east to west in a South Lake Union crosswalk when Officer Kevin Dave, who was responding to a drug overdose call, fatally struck her with his official SUV. She was a native of the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in southern India, and a graduate student at the Northeastern University campus in South Lake Union. She was on track to receive a master’s degree in information systems in December 2023.

READ: indica’s comprehensive coverage of the Jaanhavi Kandula case

Leesa Manion, King Country Prosecutor

On Wednesday, prosecutor Leesa Manion announced the result of an independent investigation. Manion’s office said it will not charge Dave. “After staffing this case with senior deputy prosecuting attorneys and office leadership, I have determined that we lack sufficient evidence under Washington state law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Manion said in a statement.

READ: The decision statement from King County prosecutor’s office

Kandula’s death sparked international condemnation in September last year when the recorded remarks of Seattle police union official, Officer Daniel Auderer, were leaked to the media. In the audio tape, Auderer is heard laughing and downplaying Kandula’s death, suggesting that her young life had “limited value” and that the city should “just write a check.”

In the brief clip, Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Vice President Daniel Auderer is seen driving and can be heard saying, “she had limited value”, in a call with the guild’s president, Mike Solan. Shortly after saying “she’s dead”, Auderer laughs and says “it’s a regular person”, referring to Kandula.

He then says, “just write a check — $11,000, she was 26 anyway, she had limited value”. Auderer also mentions that Dave was “going 50 (miles an hour)”, stating how “that’s not out of control” for a trained driver.

A police investigation released in June 2023 found that Dave was actually travelling at 74 miles an hour in a 25 miles an hour zone while responding to a different call when Kandula was hit and thrown more than 100 feet.

“I f***ed up,” Dave was heard saying after the accident in a bodycam footage at the intersection where he accelerated up to 74 miles per hour at one point, much higher than the prescribed limits of 25 and 20 mph respectively.

Kandula first travelled to the US in 2021 from Adoni in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district. Her uncle, Ashok Mandula, who lives in Texas, was then quoted by the Seattle Times as saying: “The family has nothing to say… Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life.”

Manion on Wednesday said she spoke with a Kandula family representative on Wednesday and told the media that she was making additional arrangements to speak with her mother in India.

According to a Seattle Times report, Manion and senior prosecutors who reviewed the case explained there was no evidence that Dave was impaired or driving recklessly, the two primary justifications for criminal charges in a fatal crash involving a pedestrian. Nor could they show Dave was driving with “disregard for the safety of others,” despite operating his cruiser at nearly three times the legal speed limit.

In a media briefing, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim, who runs the Felony Traffic Unit at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, explained that state law provides for police officers to exceed the limit when responding to legitimate emergencies. Dave, who is also a trained medic, was responding to a 911 call of a drug overdose in Queen Anne. She said a detailed review of body- and dash-camera evidence, as well as the conclusions of investigations by the Seattle Police Department traffic unit and a private crash reconstruction firm, also indicate Kandula appeared distracted and apparently stepped into the street without noticing the oncoming police cruiser until it was too late.

“And then, she made a panicked decision” to try to beat the car across the intersection, Freedheim said.

Freedheim noted that while she’s “not saying it is her fault,” prosecutors “can’t ignore the fact that she made a decision to run.”

“We are heartbroken this woman was killed,” Freedheim said. “But we have to look at this without passion and without prejudice.”


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