AP girl Jaahnavi Kandula's death: US promises speedy probe after outrage
India’s Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu raised the issue with Washington and sought prompt action on the killing of Jaahnavi Kandula by a police car in Seattle.
The US administration has promised a quick probe into the death of an Indian student in Seattle who was hit by a speeding police patrol car and an American officer gloated that her life had “limited value”.
The death and the reaction of the police have triggered outrage, with Indian diplomats taking up the issue with Washington and politicians and community leaders voicing solidarity with the victim’s family.
Jaahnavi Kandula was killed in January after a police vehicle driven by officer Kevin Dave at 74 mph (119 kmph) knocked her down, the Seattle Times newspaper reported on Monday.
But what caused more shock was the bodycam footage released by the Seattle Police Department in which officer Daniel Auderer laughed about the crash and dismissed any implication that officer Dave might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was needed.
The federal government was stirred into action after India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, raised the issue at the highest level in Washington and sought prompt action on the killing of Kandula.
He also demanded that the police officer responsible for the death be brought to justice.
The Biden administration assured the envoy of a quick investigation into the incident and bringing the guilty police officers to justice.
US lawmakers and Indian-Americans reacted were horrified.
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco on Wednesday termed the handling of Kandula's death as "deeply troubling".
"We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case," the mission said in a post.
Said Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna: “Kandula came here for graduate work from India. She was killed on a crosswalk by a speeding police car, and officer Auderer said her life had ‘limited value’.
“I thought of my dad who came here in his 20s. Auderer, the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value,” he said. “Anyone who thinks a human life has ‘limited value’ should not be serving in law enforcement’”
Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said: “This is appalling. I hope to see justice for Kandula's family and accountability for those involved."
In a letter to the distraught Kandula family, Seattle City Mayor Bruce Harrell said that the comments made by one person do not reflect the feelings of the city or the communities that call it home.
In a communication to the Kandula family, Harrell said the “community is heartbroken and mourns alongside your family, friends and everyone who shared the privilege of knowing” her.
Community leader Ajay Bhutoria said: “We are deeply troubled by the unfortunate statement and poor conduct displayed by a Seattle police officer during this incident.”
Demanding accountability to ensure trust in the law enforcement agencies, he urged authorities to take swift action and implement steps to prevent such tragic incidents in the future.
The Seattle Office of Police Accountability said it has opened an investigation into the incident and it will be completed before January 29.
(With agency inputs)