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Bodycam captures Seattle police officer laughing in wake of fatal collision

caption: Body cam video of a Seattle police officer on a phone call, commenting on a fatal collision with a pedestrian in January 2023.
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Body cam video of a Seattle police officer on a phone call, commenting on a fatal collision with a pedestrian in January 2023.

Seattle's Office of Police Accountability is investigating bodycam video that features a Seattle Police Officers Guild leader laughing and joking in the wake of a fatal officer-involved collision.

On Jan. 23, 2023, a patrol car traveling more than 70 mph en route to a 911 call struck 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula on Dexter Avenue North. Kandula was taken to Harborview Medical Center where she died.

Less than a day later, bodycam video captured part of a phone call, reportedly between Det. Daniel Auderer and Officer Mike Solan. Auderer is vice president of SPOG, Seattle's police union, and Solan is president.

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According to a statement, the Seattle Community Police Commission confirms the conversation was between Auderer and Solan. The video features Auderer's side of the conversation, discussing the fatal collision involving another member of the police union.

Auderer says that he didn't believe the officer's car was out of control and that a trained driver could handle the high speed. He is then heard laughing after stating, "She is dead." He then states, through more laughter, "Yeah, just write a check ... $11,000. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value."

Auderer spoke with conservative Seattle media, explaining the call was intended to be union business, and that is why he shut the camera off in the middle of the call. He claimed that he self-reported his own bodycam video, concerned it would be misinterpreted, and said his comments were meant to mock lawyers who debate the value of life after a tragedy. Auderer added that someone watching the video would "rightfully believe" it was insensitive and would diminish trust in SPD, but added there was no malice on his part.

The Seattle Community Police Commission's statement says that, despite Auderer's explanation, the behavior is still "unprofessional and inhumane."

The reported explanation that he was mocking lawyers does not make this unprofessional and inhumane conduct any better because it shows – in what was believed to be a private conversation with SPOG leadership – a callous dismissiveness toward police accountability systems that are at the heart of the City’s efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department and come out from under the Consent Decree.

This speaks to the concerns that the Seattle Community Police Commission has repeatedly raised about elements of Seattle Police Department culture and SPOG resistance to officer accountability measures included in the landmark 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance. The people of Seattle deserve better from a police department that is charged with fostering trust with the community and ensuring public safety.

In a statement, the Seattle Police Department says it released the video with the goal of transparency and already spoke with the victim's family about the content. SPD reports that the 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 through their chain of command." The video was then forwarded to the city's Office of Police Accountability. An investigation is underway.

SPD says it will not comment on the video until OPA has completed its investigation.

KUOW has reached out to the Seattle Police Officers Guild for comment.

On Jan. 23, 2023, Seattle Officer Kevin Dave was responding to a 911 call when he struck Jaahnavi Kandula around 8 p.m. at Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Street. She was in the crosswalk at the time.

Kandula was a 23-year-old graduate student from India, attending Northeastern University in Seattle. She was studying for a Master of Science in Information Systems and was scheduled to graduate in December 2023.

Following her death, KING5 reported a statement from Kandula's family:

We are truly heartbroken. Jaahnavi was a brilliant student with a bright future. Jaahnavi's smile was radiant, and her bubbly personality warmed the hearts of every person she came in contact with. She had an innate ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Jaahnavi's tragic and untimely death has left her family and community with a huge hole in their hearts that will never be repaired. She was a daughter to a single mother who teaches elementary school in India. In spite of earning less than 200 USD per month, her mother educated Jaahnavi and encouraged her to the United States hoping Jaahnavi would have a better future and a better life abroad. Her mother's hopes and dreams are cut short now.

Some readers may find the following video disturbing.

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