Seattle police union rank-and-file leaders are under investigation after an officer was recorded on his body camera appearing to make light of the death of a woman who was killed by another officer this year, saying that she “had limited value.”
The Seattle Police Department released footage Monday from Officer Daniel Auderer’s body camera. Auderer left his body camera on after responding to the South Lake Union neighborhood, where a marked patrol vehicle driven by another officer struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula on Jan. 23. That officer had been responding to a “priority one call,” police said a day after the incident, when he hit Kandula, 23, who had been in a crosswalk.
In the brief clip, Auderer, who is vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, is driving and can be heard discussing details of the incident in a call with the guild’s president, Mike Solan.
Auderer said that the officer whose vehicle struck Kandula had been “going 50” and that “that’s not out of control.” According to a police investigation report that was referred to prosecutors for review last month, the officer had been driving at 74 mph and Kandula was thrown more than 100 feet. Seattle police would not confirm details of the collision Tuesday, telling NBC News to submit a public records request for information about the speed at which the officer was traveling, whether he had his sirens on, whether he had faced any discipline and his employment status. The department also would not comment about the phone call between Auderer and Solan.
“That’s not reckless for a trained driver,” Auderer also said in the video, adding that he doesn’t believe “she was thrown 40 feet either.”
“But she is dead,” he said. He later laughs and says, “No, it’s a regular person.” Only Auderer’s statements are audible in the video.
"Yeah, just write a check," he also said and laughed again.
“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said, misstating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.”
In a statement Monday, the Seattle Police Department said it learned of the conversation not from Auderer, but from an employee who listened to it “in the routine course of business.” That employee was “concerned about the nature of statements” and took their concerns through their chain of command to the chief’s office. After reviewing the video, the chief’s office referred it to the Office of Police Accountability for investigation, as department policy and the city’s accountability ordinance require.
The oversight agency, which investigates police misconduct and recommends discipline to the police chief, is investigating “the context in which” the statements were made and whether any policies had been violated, the police department said.
Katie Maier, the assistant director of operations at the Office of Police Accountability, confirmed an investigation was initiated after the agency received a complaint Aug. 2 from an employee with the Seattle Police Department. Maier declined to comment further citing an ongoing investigation.
Auderer, Solan and the Seattle Police Officers Guild did not immediately return requests for comment.
The Seattle Community Police Commission, another oversight group, described the body camera footage as “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.”
“The people of Seattle deserve better from a police department that is charged with fostering trust with the community and ensuring public safety,” the commission said in a statement.
Kandula, who was from India, had been pursuing her graduate degree at Northeastern University in Seattle, according to a GoFundMe that was launched to support her family.
Her uncle, Ashok Mandula, who lives in Texas, told The Seattle Times on Monday: “I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life.”
In a statement Wednesday, Kandula’s family said: “It is truly disturbing and saddening to hear insensible comments on the bodycam video from an SPD officer regarding Jaahnavi’s death. 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.”