- Jaahnavi Kandula was struck and killed by Officer Kevin Dave's police cruiser at a crosswalk in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood on Jan. 23.
A Seattle police officer has admitted to making a mistake after fatally plowing into an Indian grad student while responding to an emergency call. Jaahnavi Kandula, a student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus was struck and killed by Officer Kevin Dave’s police cruiser at a crosswalk in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood on Jan. 23. The young woman was found suffering from life-threatening injuries at the scene, where officers performed CPR while they waited for the fire department to arrive. She was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition where she later died. She was set to graduate in December from the College of Engineering. Police ruled the incident an accident, and Dave returned to duty days later.
Dave said he “f**ked up” after watching his body cam video which was released earlier this month and showed his rescue efforts and the moments before the crash. The bodycam footage, first published by Publicola, shows Dave behind the wheel of his police cruiser driving at a speed of 74 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone before he slammed into Kandula. He was heard calling into radio dispatch for backup after reports of a struck pedestrian and was seen performing CPR on her until several other first responders arrived at the scene.
“The video, which includes a clear shot of Dave’s speedometer, shows Dave going through several red lights and accelerating to 74 miles an hour, before turning his wheel slightly and, in almost the same instant, striking Kandula, who can be seen briefly on the video as she passes over the windshield of his SUV,” Publicola said, describing the video. It also shows Dave using the siren a few times before he approached the intersection. Publicola speculates that he “may have turned his siren on in the instant before he struck Kandula.”
According to the news outlet, the King County Prosecutor’s Office is still deciding whether to charge Dave with a crime.
In a statement in January, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Dave was “clearing intersections with his siren” immediately before the collision. The Seattle Police Manual says that officers engaged in emergency driving, as Dave was, must use “audible signals when necessary to warn others of the emergency nature of the situation.” In its policy on vehicle pursuits—another situation when officers might drive above the posted speed limit—the manual says officers must “use their sirens continuously to warn others of the emergency nature of the situation.”
At the time of Kandula’s death, her uncle Ashok Mandula of Houston told the Seattle Times that his niece was from Adoni, a city in the southern part of the country about 300 miles north of Bangalore. She was the daughter of a single mother who teaches elementary school there and had one sister. Her mother had taken on financial debt so that Kandula could travel to the United States and earn her graduate degree, according to a GoFundMe page to help unburden Kandula’s mother.