Seattle Police officer not charged in death of Jaahnavi Kandula who was hit in crosswalk

The Seattle police officer who struck and killed 23-year-old grad student Jaahnavi Kandula will not face charges, the King County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday.

Officer Kevin Dave was driving 74 mph in a 25 mph zone on Jan. 23, 2023, speeding through red lights on the way to a high-priority overdose call. Kandula was walking along a crosswalk at Dexter Ave N and Thomas St, when Dave fatally struck her and sent her 138 feet down the street. Dave was then seen on body camera calling dispatch for help and performing CPR on the deceased Kandula.

Kandula's family issued a statement following the announcement:

"We are shocked and disappointed that the King County Prosecutor’s office has failed to criminally charge the Seattle police officer whose reckless behavior killed Jaahnavi Kandula. She was a college student who did nothing wrong. The officer was speeding and going on 74 miles per hour on a street (construction zone) with a speed limit of 25 mph. It was dark and he did not use his siren. Jaanhavi was in a marked crosswalk when she was struck. We are pursuing our legal rights to obtain justice for Jaahnavi even though the City of Seattle has failed to do so."

Former Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist says if a civilian were behind the wheel, this would likely have been vehicular homicide. Dave's status as an officer changes the calculus.

"Any civilian going three times the speed limit who kills a pedestrian is going to be prosecuted. However, under the law, officers have extra protection because they have extra duties. Here the officer was on a priority one call and therefore was within his protocol to be speeding," argued Lindquist. "Seattle Police Department policies may be more to blame here than the officer driving."

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion announced in a statement Wednesday she believes they lack the evidence to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lindquist pointed out that the standard of proof is so much higher in criminal cases than civil.

"This is a horrible tragedy and people want accountability, understandably," remarked Lindquist. "One of the things to keep in mind, though, is there's a vast difference between a civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution. This is a slam-dunk civil lawsuit."

The Prosecutor's Office walked through this report with Kandula's family.

"Ms. Kandula’s death is heartbreaking and impacted communities in King County and across the world," reads a statement from Manion. "It is the responsibility of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to review all available evidence relating to the case involving Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave and the January 2023 collision death of Jaahnavi Kandula. After staffing this case with senior deputy prosecuting attorneys and office leadership, I have determined that we lack sufficient evidence under Washington State law to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt."

(File / FOX 13)

In the midst of the controversy, another officer—Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG)—was captured on body camera laughing and joking about Kandula's death with SPOG President Mike Solan.

"The (Prosecutor's Office) finds the comments made by Seattle Police Officer Daniel Auderer, and recorded on his body-worn video, appalling and deeply troubling. Officer Auderer’s comments were also unprofessional and served to undermine the public’s trust in the Seattle Police Department and law enforcement in general," said Manion. "As egregious as Officer Auderer’s comments are, they do not change the PAO’s legal analysis into the conduct of Officer Dave. It is the Office of Police Accountability that bears the responsibility of disciplinary investigation and proceedings relating to Officer Auderer’s comment, not the PAO."

Auderer was pulled from patrol in Sep. 2023 and reassigned to a "non-operational position."

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Kandula came to Seattle from Bengaluru, India in 2021 to pursue a master's degree at Northeastern University, the college said. She was pursuing a Master of Science in Information Systems at the College of Engineering and was scheduled to graduate in Dec. 2023.