Outrage in US over death of Indian student; US assures prompt action and investigation

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Jaahnavi Kandula

Washington/Seattle: The Biden administration has assured the Indian government of a quick investigation into the death of Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula in Seattle after being struck by a speeding police patrol car and bringing to justice the police officers who were responsible for it.

The US government swung into action after India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, strongly raised the issue at the highest level in Washington and sought prompt action on the killing of Kandula, and the highly insensitive behaviour of the police officer in Seattle in Washington state.

Kandula was killed in January after she was struck by a police vehicle driven by Officer Kevin Dave. He was driving 74 mph (more than 119 kmph) on the way to a report of an overdose, the Seattle Times newspaper reported on Monday.

In bodycam footage released on Monday by the Seattle Police Department, Officer Daniel Auderer laughed about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication Dave might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary.

US lawmakers and Indian-Americans have expressed outrage over the death of Kandula.

The Biden administration has assured the Indian government of a quick investigation into the incident and bringing to justice the police officers who were responsible for it.

Senior administration officials are believed to have assured the Ambassador and the Indian government that the entire incident has been taken very seriously by them.

They are monitoring its investigation from Washington DC the progress of the case to ensure that there is adequate accountability.

Officials said that they were “shocked” and “horrified” at this incident.

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 on platform X.

"The Consulate & Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities," it added.

“Jaahnavi 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. Mr. Auderer, the life of every Indian immigrant has infinite value,” Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna said.

“Anyone who thinks that a human life has “limited value” should not be serving in law enforcement,” Khanna said.

Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said: “This is appalling. I hope to see justice for Jaahnavi Kandula's family and accountability for those involved." In a letter to the 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.

“We recognise that Jaahnavi's death is a loss for our whole community – the loss of a young woman who had so much life ahead of her to do amazing things and share that joy with loved ones,” Harrell said in his communication to the Kandula family.

Indian Consul General in San Francisco Ashok Mandula has been in constant touch with the officials from Seattle City and Washington State on this issue.

Expressing his deepest condolences 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. Expressing condolences on the untimely passing of Kandula, community leader Ajay Bhutoria said her death reminds of the importance of safety and respect for all individuals in the community.

“We are deeply troubled by the unfortunate statement and poor conduct displayed by a Seattle police officer during this incident. Regardless of one's background or circumstances, every individual deserves dignity, fairness, and compassion," he said.

Describing this as unacceptable behaviour, Bhutoria said it is crucial that incidents like these are rigorously examined, and accountability is upheld to maintain community trust in the law enforcement agencies.

"As a community, we must unite to support Jaahnavi's family and advocate for positive change. We urge authorities to take swift action to address this situation and implement measures to prevent such tragic incidents in the future," Bhutoria said.

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability said that it has opened an investigation into the incident and they need to complete it before January 29.