Seattle leaders comment on ‘disgusting’ behavior of SPD officer who mocked woman’s death

Outrage is growing over explosive body camera video that captured a high-profile Seattle Police officer devaluing the life of a young woman, struck and killed by a fellow officer.

In that footage, Officer Daniel Auderer is heard laughing and joking about the death of 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula. She was a Northeastern University graduate student set to graduate in December with a degree in Information Technology and came to the US alone in hopes of a brighter future.

“Just write a check, $11,000. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value” is what Officer Auderer is heard saying in between laughs in his body camera footage. 

The Associated Press confirmed on the other line with Officer Auderer was the President of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, Mike Solen.

Kandula had just been struck and killed by another police officer. That officer was driving 50 miles over the speed limit when he hit her.

Members from both the Community Police Commission and the African American Advisory Council said hearing Officer Auderer laugh and joke about Kandula’s tragic death is more than disgusting. It reinforces a message to the people of Seattle that the department as a whole allows that type of behavior.

“This just taints it. Not only for Seattle officers but for every officer in our country. That shows you their culture. That some of us are valued and some aren’t. Some lives are valued and some aren’t and it doesn’t look good,” said Victoria Beach, Chair of the African-American Community Advisory Council for the Seattle Police Department.

Beach has worked alongside Seattle Police for the last five years to improve race relations between Seattle Police and the community. She said that footage makes her stomach turn.

“I’m just feeling angry and saddened for the family. Could you imagine that being your loved one that they’re mocking,” she said.

Joel Merkel, Co-Chair of the Seattle Community Police Commission pointed out the video shows how officers feel about accountability.

“What it says about the police’s views on accountability provisions is the joke was ostensibly about lawyers cutting a check and accountability for police officers when they break policy or rules,” Joel Merkel, Co-Chair of the Seattle Community Police Commission said. “He’s [Auderer] out there sworn to serve and protect our community and he’s joking about a member of our community that just died. It’s just awful and heartbreaking and just disgusting.”

Neither Seattle’s Police Chief nor Mayor would comment on the video. The Mayor’s office said they can’t until the Office of Police Accountability finishes their investigation.

We also reached out to the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild but never heard back. City Council member Lisa Herbold made some statements on the footage saying it was “careless and inhumane messaging.”

Public records show this isn’t the first time Officer Auderer has acted this way.

“I don’t want to hear him say I’m sorry, he’s sorry because he got caught. He showed us his character. So I think that he talks like that,” said Beach.

Merkel added, “It gave me concerns with how this officer views his interactions with the community and his obligations in this investigation.”

This video was also released less than a week after a federal judge ruled the Department of Justice loosened its grip on the SPD and lifted most of a consent decree. Improvements in instances of police brutality are in part why the decade-long decree was lifted in all but three areas, one of them being police accountability.

“This video shows exactly why we have more to do on accountability,” said Merkel. “It seemed like the officer who was joking about this pedestrian’s death and minimizing any potential investigation into the officer that struck her as flaunting accountability and that’s why we have such a huge problem.

“That’s what I got from it like so what we messed up, write them a check, get over it,” said Beach.

The three areas the DOJ believes SPD still needs oversight are crowd management, accountability systems - along with a plan to mitigate racial disparities in policing, and the city has to continue to measure whether reforms required by the consent decree remain effective.