As someone who has a few close friends living abroad, the unfortunate demise of Jaahnavi Kandula has been haunting me. For the unversed, 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula was hit by a speeding police car when she was crossing a road on 23 January 2023.
Why are we talking about it now? Recently, Union Leader of the Seattle Police Department Daniel Auderer was captured by a body-worn camera while he was laughing and saying that Jaahnavi’s life had "limited value" and the "city should just write her a check."
Cop's Insensitive Remark On Jaahnavi's Death
Auderer was heard saying, "Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway," to Guild President Mike Solan while reporting what had happened. "She had limited value," he added. Notably, he stated Jaahnavi’s age inaccurately. Solan’s remark in response to Auderer was not captured by the camera.
This video was obtained by Jason Rantz, a talk radio show host on KTTH-AM, who later said that he had received a written statement from Auderer to the city’s office of police accountability. In the statement, he reportedly said that his remarks were only intended to mimic how the city’s attorneys might react to the death.
US Government Assures India's Ambassador
Following this, India’s ambassador to the United States sought quick action in the matter. The US government has taken cognizance of the issue and assured the Indian government of conducting a swift and thorough investigation into the case.
Jaahnavi To Receive Degree Posthumously
Northeastern University’s chancellor expressed solidarity with the incident and said that they recognise how this incident has impacted the Indian student community. The university also announced that it has decided to award Jaahnavi her degree posthumously and present it to her family.
On January 23, when Jaahnavi was crossing the intersection of Dexter Avenue North and Tomas Street, a speeding police car driven by Officer Kevin Dave, who was driving at 74 mph while responding to a call about a potential overdose, hit her. Jaahnavi’s body was thrown over 100 feet from the impact. Despite being rushed to Harborview Medical Centre immediately, she succumbed to her injuries.
Who Was Jaahnavi Kandula?
Jaahnavi Kandula was a 23-year-old student pursuing her Master of Science in Information Systems at the Northeastern University Campus in South Lake Union. She hailed from Andhra Pradesh and moved to the US to pursue her post-graduation in a student exchange programme in 2021. She was scheduled to graduate this December.
Talking about the incident to SheThePeople, three Indian-based women who are currently working/studying in the US expressed their angst.
NRI Women From US Opine On Jaahnavi's Case
Bhanavi shared that seeing the video of the officer trivialising Jaahnavi’s death made her blood boil. "The way he made light of the situation, the way he just dismissed her life—the potential that was robbed away from her—is worth more than a paltry sum of $11,000. That wouldn’t even cover her education costs.
She went on to say how they are encouraged to call 911 when they feel unsafe. But she questioned, "If this is the attitude of the police, I feel unsafe. I can’t help but take this personally."
Bhanavi, who also pursued her masters in the US, added that she understood how hard Jaahnavi must have worked to study in the US, to sustain herself in the country, and to live away from her loved ones in a strange land—" and all that stood for nothing"—"limited value."
Bhanavi further wished for the officer to be given the punishment that he deserved. She also demanded that thorough, transparent, and swift action be taken on the issue and that Jaahnavi’s family receive fair compensation adequately. She also encouraged India to speak out in support of Jaahnavi so that justice is served soon.
Shahana who also completed her MS from the US said, "In a culturally diverse community, it is deeply disheartening to witness an instance where an immigrant is subjected to mistreatment by a police officer." She added that it was "imperative that the government address the issue promptly and take action against the implicated official. "Also, the government should alleviate the financial responsibility of Jaahnavi’s family by alleviating the burdens they may face from this unfortunate incident.
An Indian woman who resides in the US is soon set to move to Seattle for work expressed her concern over the incident. "I’m trying not to think about it too much because it’s traumatising me. But the news is just unavoidable, and looking at it, I’m worried if I’ll return home safe." She is also pursuing her master's part-time in the US.
If I, a woman sitting over 12,000 kilometres away from Seattle, am left deeply disturbed by the unfortunate demise of Jaahnavi, I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil of fellow Indians living abroad for educational or work purposes. It would definitely have a traumatic and profound negative impact and cause fear in their minds.
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