By Erica C. Barnett
In a conversation with Mike Solan, the head of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, Seattle Police Department officer and SPOG vice president Daniel Auderer minimized the killing of 23-year-old student Jaahnavi Kandula by police officer Kevin Dave and joked that she had “limited value” as a “regular person” who was only 26 years old.
In the video, taken in the early morning after Dave hit Kandula in a crosswalk while speeding to respond to a call from a man who believed he had taken too much cocaine, Auderer says he has talked to Dave and he is “good,” adding that ” it does not seem like there’s a criminal investigation going on” because Dave was “going 50 [mph]—that’s not out of control” and because Kandula may not have even been in a crosswalk. Auderer added that Dave had “lights and sirens” on, which video confirmed was not true.
In fact, as we reported exclusively, Dave was driving 74 miles an hour in a 25 mile per hour zone and struck Kandula while she was attempting to cross the street in a marked and well-lighted crosswalk.
“I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, then when he hit the brakes, she flew off the car. But she is dead. No, it’s a regular person. Yeah, just write a check. Yeah, $11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.”—Seattle police officer Daniel Auderer, joking with police union president Mike Solan about the death of pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula earlier that night.
“I don’t think she was thrown 40 feet either,” Auderer told Solan. “I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, then when he hit the brakes, she flew off the car. But she is dead.” Then Auderer laughed loudly at something Solan said. “No, it’s a regular person. Yeah.”
We have asked SPOG via email what Solan asked that made Auderer clarify that Kandula was a “regular” person, as opposed to another type of person Dave might have hit.
“Yeah, just write a check,” Auderer continued. Then he laughed again for several seconds. “Yeah, $11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.” At this point, Auderer turned off his body camera and the recording stops.
Joel Merkel, the co-chair of Seattle’s Community Police Commission, called the video “shockingly insensitive.
“I was just really struck by the casual laughter and attitude—this was moments after she was killed,” Merkel said. “You have the vice president of SPOG on the telephone with the president of SPOG essentially laughing and joking about the pedestrian’s death and putting a dollar value on her head, and that alone is just disgusting and inhumane,” Merkel said.
Right-wing commentator Jason Rantz attempted to pre-spin the video as an empathetic response that included a bit of “gallows humor,” saying the comment was “being described as a ‘leak’ of the content to media members who are hypercritical of police.”
Rantz also claimed the two police union officials’ comments were meant to “mock city lawyers” who work on cases in which police officers kill or harm civilians, which, Merkel says, “doesn’t make it any better and possibly even makes it worse! Because [in that case] you have SPOG complaining or mocking or joking about police accountability, which is really at the heart of the consent decree.”
Last week, US District Judge James Robart lifted the majority of a federal consent degree over SPD that has been in place since 2012, finding the department in full compliance with the portions of the agreement that dealt with use of force and bias-free policing, while maintaining federal oversight of the departments crowd-control and accountability policies. The city is currently locked in contract negotiations with SPOG. The city’s most recent contract with SPOG erased or neutralized reforms the city council, which included now-Mayor Bruce Harrell, passed in 2017.
Although Robart has said he has no authority to get involved in SPOG negotiations, Merkel said he was encouraged that he also said he “felt he had the jurisdiction to impact the contract to the extent that it affects accountability” during last week’s court hearing in which the judge largely terminated the agreement.
PubliCola requested videos and documents related to the collision through the ordinary public disclosure process several months ago and has been receiving installments through the regular public disclosure process.
SPD did not respond to a request for comment. Half an hour after this post went up, the department posted the video on its website, along with a statement. According to the post, an SPD employee “identified” the video “in the routine course of business” and alerted their supervisor; when the video made its way to Police Chief Adrian Diaz’s office, the post says, his office sent it to the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) for investigation.
This suggests a different sequence of events than the one Rantz outlined in his piece attempting to exonerate Auderer before the video became public today. We have reached out to OPA and will update this post when we hear back.
“As others in the accountability system proceed with their work, we again extend our deepest sympathy for this tragic collision,” SPD’s blog post says.
Auderer has been on the police force for 12 years and has been investigated by OPA for dozens of incidents, including several that involved violence against members of the public. In many cases, OPA has sustained, or upheld, the complaints.
In one incident, Auderer and his brother—a police officer for another jurisdiction—pulled a person out of their apartment without identifying himself as a police officer, failed to inform him of his Miranda rights, and did not report the incident to his bosses. Auderer was suspended for four days for that incident. In another, he chased down someone who was urinating in public and tackled him onto the concrete, injuring him. (Auderer later claimed he was trying to keep the man from running into traffic, which the investigator called “a logical stretch.”
“Indeed, this is not the first time that OPA has had such concerns. [Auderer] had numerous cases over the last two years in which it was alleged that he was unprofessional.”—Office of Police Accountability investigator
Many other complaints about Auderer involved alleged lack of professionalism. In one case, he threatened to break a person’s arm if he reached for his keys, asked if he was mentally ill, and failed to put a seat belt on him while he was handcuffed in the back of Auderer’s patrol car. Although OPA effectively dismissed the complaints in that case by giving Auderer a training referral, the investigator expressed concern with Auderer’s “general approach to this incident, his demeanor, and the way he interacted with the Complainant. Indeed, this is not the first time that OPA has had such concerns. [Auderer] had numerous cases over the last two years in which it was alleged that he was unprofessional.”
In another case, which was sustained, Auderer appeared to mock a woman who said she was developmentally disabled and had cognitive challenges that made it difficult for her to remember specific instructions during a DUI test. He then accused her of lying about being a veterinary nurse, suggesting she wasn’t capable of holding such a complicated job. “I know you usually get a reaction out of people, but you’re not going to get a reaction out of me,” Auderer told the woman, who appeared to be responding calmly and reasonably. He then informed another officer that she was “220,” code for mentally ill, in her presence, and said, “You also need to go see your mental health professional and I think you know that.”
Several other complaints against Auderer involved what appeared to be overzealous investigations of driving under the influence, such as a case in which he “effectuated an arrest” by another officer of a dead-sober man who briefly swerved his car because he was eating a hot dog. “I very much empathize with the subject who suffered through a Kafkaesque experience,” the OPA investigator wrote.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office has not yet decided whether to prosecute Dave in the case, which is under criminal investigation.
This is a developing story and will be updated.