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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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Seattle police officer who fatally struck Northeastern graduate student will not face charges, prosecutors say

Kevin+Dave%2C+the+police+officer+who+struck+Kandula+in+his+cruiser+in+January+2023.+Photo+courtesy+Lucy+Parsons+Labs.
Kevin Dave, the police officer who struck Kandula in his cruiser in January 2023. Photo courtesy Lucy Parsons Labs.

Prosecutors will not pursue felony charges against the Seattle police officer who hit and killed Northeastern graduate student Jaahnavi Kandula with a police cruiser while on duty due to a lack of evidence, the King County Prosecutor’s Office stated in a memo to the Seattle Police Department Wednesday.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion said in the memo investigators could not obtain sufficient evidence to prove felony charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

“After a careful analysis of applicable law, the legal definition for police on code and relevant and applicable case law relating to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, the [King’s County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office] has determined that there is no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ofc. Dave was driving impaired and evidence of driving in a reckless manner,” Manion said in the memo. 

Seattle Police Department, or SPD, officer Kevin Dave fatally struck Kandula in January 2023 while driving his police cruiser at 74 mph in a 25 mph zone. The collision occurred while Kandula was crossing the street in a designated crosswalk, according to findings from an investigation conducted by SPD.

Before striking Kandula, Dave was reportedly on his way to a “priority one” call in which SPD requested police assistance with a drug overdose.  

The circumstances surrounding Kandula’s death sparked national outrage in September 2023 after body camera footage revealed another SPD officer, Daniel Auderer, laughing at and minimizing Kandula’s death.

With insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Dave was driving impaired or recklessly, the collision was then evaluated under the state’s “disregard for the safety of others” test, one of its legal tests for negligent driving, which does not amount to vehicular homicide charges.

Under this test, prosecutors looked at whether Dave employed necessary safety precautions and what role Kandula’s actions played in the accident.

The memo stated that Dave had already begun to brake and employ avoidance maneuvers before Kandula was in a “dangerous position.”

“The patrol car was identifiable to Ms. Kandula prior to Ms. Kandula entering the northbound lane. Ms. Kandula had the time and distance to stop walking prior to entering the northbound lane. There was insufficient information to confirm or refute whether Ms. Kandula had Airpods in her ears,” the memo read.

The memo also addressed claims that driving 74 mph in a 25 mph zone in itself is negligent but stated that because Dave was responding to the highest level of emergency, used the vehicle’s emergency signals and attempted to veer and brake before colliding with Kandula, there was insufficient evidence to prove Dave disregarded safety.

“While the speed at which Ofc. Dave drove his patrol vehicle was extremely fast, there is insufficient evidence, under these circumstances, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he showed conscious disregard for others safety,” the memo said.

Prosecutors also found that many of Kandula’s actions could be argued to have contributed to the cause of the accident, a legal term known as contributory negligence. If an accident would not have occurred without the pedestrian’s actions, the contributory negligence acts as a “superseding cause” and can be used as a defense to the crime of vehicular homicide, the memo stated.  

According to the memo’s account of collision reconstructions, Kandula had already taken a few steps into the crosswalk before the patrol car entered her line of sight. After seeing the vehicle, the report stated, Kandula attempted to run across the street. If Kandula had stopped “the patrol car would have passed her.”

“If the pedestrian’s [Kandula’s] choice to run across the street when she could have stayed still and not been struck, is seen as the superseding intervening clause under the law, then even if the officer had driven with ‘disregard for the safety of others (DSO),’ the actions of the pedestrian would be a defense to the felony,” the report stated. 

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Alongside the acknowledgment that no legal action will be pursued against Dave, Manion also recognized the body camera footage that captured Auderer laughing and joking at the death of the 23-year-old graduate student. 

The Attorney’s Office said Auderer’s comments were “egregious” but “do not change the PAO’s legal analysis into the conduct of Officer Dave.”

“It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer’s comment, not the PAO,” the memo stated.

According to a report released by Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability in January, Auderer breached the professionalism and bias-based policing standards of SPD when body camera footage showed him laughing and joking about Kandula’s death. 

SPD reassigned Auderer to a non-operational position in October 2023.

Alongside the POA’s memo, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion released the following statement: 

Ms. Kandula’s death is heartbreaking and impacted communities in King County and across the world.

It is the responsibility of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO) to review all available evidence relating to the case involving Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave and the January 2023 collision death of Jaahnavi Kandula. 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.

The PAO finds the comments made by Seattle Police Officer Daniel Auderer, and recorded on his body-worn video, appalling and deeply troubling. Officer Auderer’s comments were also unprofessional and served to undermine the public’s trust in the Seattle Police Department and law enforcement in general. As egregious as Officer Auderer’s comments are, they do not change the PAO’s legal analysis into the conduct of Officer Dave. It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer’s comment, not the PAO.

About the Contributor
Juliette Piovoso, Deputy Campus Editor
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