Police officer Kevin Dave was speeding at 74 mph in a 25 mph zone on Dexter Avenue North in Seattle on Jan. 23 when he smashed into pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula, knocking her body 100 feet and killing her.
Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student from Andhra Pradesh, India, was attending Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, near the site of her death. Dave had suddenly accelerated his cruiser’s speed and hit Kandula in a marked crosswalk. An eyewitness reported he didn’t hear the sound of brakes!
A protest was held in January at the scene of this police crime to denounce this act of racist police brutality and murder. An investigation was undertaken, but so far Dave has not been disciplined, fired or criminally charged.
Finally, information about the investigation came to the surface in August. But it wasn’t only about Dave’s actions. The story has unfolded, implicating leaders of the Seattle Police Officers Guild for joking and making light of Kandula’s killing right after Dave’s cruiser hit her.
On Sept. 11, bodycam footage worn by SPOG vice president Daniel Auderer was revealed by the police department; it showed him laughing. He had been sent to evaluate whether Dave was “impaired” when he plowed into Kandula. As he left the scene of the crime, still wearing his body camera, Auderer called SPOG president Mike Solan.
Only Auderer’s voice was heard saying, “she is dead,” followed by laughter. Then he followed up with, “It’s a regular person. [The department should] just write a check [for] $11,000. She was 26 [she was 23] She had limited value.” He continued laughing. He made these outrageously racist comments to Solan, a known hater of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The SPOG has been criticized for its racist policies and condemned by the Martin Luther King Labor Council since 2020 for not representing the authentic union movement.
When this body camera footage was made public, it compounded the suffering of Kandula’s family, school friends and the Indian and South Asian community.
They knew of Kandula as a “brilliant” software engineering student who was “full of hope” and expected to receive her master’s degree in December. She sent money home to her single mother in India and planned to help her in the future.
Outcry against racist police
Just three days after release of the video footage, on Sept. 14, hundreds of people from the neighborhood where Kandula went to school came out in a multinational protest. They took to the streets and went to the downtown police station. People came out of their apartments to join them. The crowd’s signs read “Jail killer cops!” “End police terror!” and, of course, “Justice for Jaahnavi!”
TouthliRt Williams, a wood carver from the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nation, spoke to the crowd about the injustice done to his brother, John T. Williams, also a wood carver, who was killed by Seattle cops in 2010. He urged the people there to keep pushing for justice. The march was called by the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Two days later, on Sept. 16, members of the Indian and South Asian community held a rally at the scene where the police car crashed into Kandula. They ended with a call for justice. After a meeting with the mayor and police chief, community members sent a clear message that they wouldn’t back down until the police are held responsible and justice is obtained.
The outpouring of protest by the Indian and South Asian communities gives Kandula’s case more meaning because it makes more room for the voices of oppressed people to be heard. The masses’ entry into the struggle always makes a difference.
Lalita Uppala, Executive Director of Indian American Community Services, emphasizes: “We want justice for Jaahnavi and demand that the SPD officers show respect for the lives and dignity of all marginalized communities particularly the Black, Indigenous, Latino, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Muslim, Asian and all people of color, the LGBTQ+, the unhoused, those with challenges in behavioral health, special needs and disabilities.” (king5.com, Sept. 17)
The outrage felt by Kandula’s community in Seattle is also felt in her home country. The Indian Consulate is demanding a thorough investigation of her death and action from U.S. officials in Washington D.C.
Workers World Party demands the arrest of these racist cops and the filing of criminal charges against Dave, Auderer and Solan. WWP joins Indian and South Asian individuals and organizations in the continuing fight for justice for Jaahnavi Kandula.
Kathy Durkin contributed to this article.