National Outrage as Seattle Police Mock Indian Student’s Tragic Death

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Jaahnavi Kandula was a vibrant young woman, described by her loved ones as a lively individual with a contagious laugh, and a youthful aura that brightened the room whenever she stepped in. An imminent master’s degree holder from India, she was a gem in her native country, creating her own path and making her loved ones proud thousands of miles away from home.

Tragically, the promising graduate, only 23 years old, was struck and killed in a Seattle crosswalk in January by a city police car that was reportedly responding to a call. Almost eight months later, her family and friends are engulfed in grief anew following the release of a chilling body cam footage showing a Seattle police officer laughing and uttering the suggestion of $11,000 as compensation for her life.

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Outrage sparked across the nation, seeping into the hearts of the South Asian diaspora, inciting rallies, dialogues with elected officers and online petitions crying for justice for Kandula. Notable celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Lilly Singh also joined the clamor, expressing their heartbreak online.

The day after the fatal incident, Officer Daniel Auderer, a so-called “drug recognition expert,” was dispatched to determine if the officer who hit Kandula was impaired at that time. In the disturbing footage, Auderer could be heard dismissively suggesting “[writing] a check” and cruelly laughing at the matter as if it was trivial.

Despite his apparent blatant insensitivity, Auderer defended himself, saying his comments were merely a mockery of lawyers and that he possessed no ill will when he made those remarks. He held the belief that his conversation, which he thought was private, was not recorded and thus, taken out of context.

The Seattle Community Police Commission, responsible for the city police’s oversight, suggests Auderer be put on unpaid leave as investigations ensue. Though it’s not binding, it reflects the strong sentiment echoed by a significant portion of the city’s populace who are rightfully upset and demand for justice.

Grieving and appalled by the insensitive comments caught on the bodycam video, Kandula’s loved ones reiterated that she is more than any sum of money. She was a priceless jewel to her family and her value can’t be diminished even in the face of tragedy.

In response to this outcry, calls for justice, and comprehensive investigations have resonated throughout the nation. Large crowds have rallied at the Seattle intersection where Kandula’s life was tragically ended, with the fervor echoing in California and New York where similar protests are taking place. The Indian Consulate General of India in San Francisco also demanded a meticulous investigation into her death and responsible action against those implicated in the incident.

In response to the public’s outcry, the Seattle Police released Auderer’s body cam footage, acknowledging the public’s concern and seeking to maintain transparency. The department expressed their condolences and pledged to prioritize the family’s call for privacy and to respect their painful loss.

Kandula was a beacon of dream and aspirations filled with hopes for the future. She came to the United States in 2021 with an ambition to secure a master’s degree in information systems at the esteemed Northeastern University’s Seattle campus. On Campus, her effervescence had not gone unnoticed, leaving unforgettable impacts on her peers and her educators, and this is why, her degree will be awarded posthumously to commemorate her relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Her life though cut short, was a testament to courage and determination. Raised by a single mother, an elementary school teacher in India, Kandula managed to transcend her circumstances through hard work and a steadfast belief in a better future. Although her death signifies a devastating loss, her legacy serves as a reminder of her indomitable spirit that continues to inspire countless individuals around the globe.