Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell reportedly apologized to members of the Indian community amid outrage over a police officer who joked about the death of a college student.
Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, was thrown 100 feet after being struck by the vehicle while standing in a crosswalk on the campus of Northeastern University in Seattle in January.
Kevin Dave, the officer in charge, was driving 74mph in a 25mph zone. The Indian student died later that night from her injuries.
“As Mayor of Seattle, I want you to know that our community is heartbroken and mourning along with your families, friends, and all who shared the privilege of knowing Jaahnavi,” the mayor wrote in a letter to the student’s parents.
“I want to be clear that comments made by one person do not reflect the feelings of our city or the communities that call it home,” he added.
The police force faced backlash after a bodycam video made public earlier this week showed Officer Daniel Auderer, dispatched to the scene of the crash, describing the incident and laughing.
“No, he’s a normal person – yeah, yeah, just write a check. $11,000. She was 26 years old [sic] Anyway. It had limited value,” he says in the video.
The video has been referred to Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability “for investigation into the context in which these statements were made and any policy violations that may be involved,” a statement confirmed.
About 20 people representing the Indian community met with Mayor Harrell and Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Saturday, calling for more respect and cultural change in the city.
“Members of the Indian community have come together because of the unfortunate and insensitive remarks that I believe were made,” the mayor said, according to NDTV.
“We are making sure our apologies as city officials are felt by your community and family, my condolences for your loss.”
Members of the South Asian community marched Saturday evening to the site where Kandula was shot by the police officer, demanding an investigation into the student’s death.
Protesters held signs that said “Jaahnavi was more valuable than the SPD” and “Justice for Jaahnavi, prison killer cops.”
“I think this has galvanized people because it’s so brazen and disrespectful to put a value on the life of a human being at $11,000,” Patricia Hunter, co-chair of the Community Police Commission, said in an interview Friday.
“And people are galvanized to see that the culture of the Seattle Police Department has some problems that need to be addressed immediately.”
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco tweeted that it had taken up the “deeply concerning” matter with authorities in Seattle and Washington, D.C., and wanted a thorough investigation and action against those involved.
The US State Department in a statement called the situation disturbing.
“We are aware of and are concerned by what was said about Ms. Kandula’s death in bodycam footage recently released by the Seattle Police Department,” the State Department said.
“We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to Ms. Kandula’s family and loved ones.”
The Seattle Police Officers Guild said it understands the outrage caused by the “highly insensitive comments.”
“This tarnishes the profession of law enforcement, the reputation of all Seattle police officers, and paints Seattle in a terrible light,” the union said.
“We feel deep sorrow and sorrow for the family of Jaahnavi Kandula as this video has re-victimized them in an already tragic situation as they continue to mourn her death. We are truly sorry.”
But the union noted that the bodycam footage only captures Auderer’s side of the conversation: “There are many more details and nuances that have not yet been made public.”