Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell reportedly apologized to members of the Indian community amid outrage that a police officer joked about the death of a university student.
Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, was thrown 100 feet after he was struck by the vehicle in a crosswalk on the campus of Northeastern University in Seattle in January.
Kevin Dave, the officer in charge, was driving at 74 mph in a 25 mph zone. The student from India died from her injuries later that night.
“As mayor of Seattle, I want you to know that our community is heartbroken and grieves with your families, friends and everyone who had the privilege of knowing Jaahnavi,” the mayor wrote in a letter to the student’s parents.
“I want to be clear that one person’s comments do not reflect the feelings of our city or the communities they call home,” he added.
Police faced backlash after bodycam video released earlier this week showed officer Daniel Auderer, who was dispatched to the scene, laughing as he described the incident.
“No, it’s a normal person – yes, yes, just write a check. $11,000. She was 26 [sic] Despite it. It had limited value,” he says in the video.
The video was forwarded to the Seattle 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 representatives of the Indian community met with Mayor Harrell and Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Saturday and called for more respect and a cultural change in the city.
“Members of the Indian community have come together over what I believe were unfortunate and insensitive comments,” the mayor said, according to NDTV.
“We will ensure that our apology as city officials is felt by your community and family. My condolences on your loss.”
Members of the South Asian community marched to the spot where Kandula was struck by the police officer on Saturday evening, demanding an investigation into the student’s death.
The demonstrators held signs that read “Jaahnavi had more value than the SPD” and “Justice for Jaahnavi, prison murder cops.”
“I think this has galvanized people because it’s so obvious and disrespectful to value someone’s life at $11,000,” Patricia Hunter, co-chair of the Community Police Commission, said in an interview Friday.
“And it motivates people to recognize that there are some issues in the culture of the Seattle Police Department that need to be addressed immediately.”
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco tweeted that it had raised the “deeply disturbing” matter with authorities in Seattle and Washington, DC, and that it wanted a thorough investigation and action against those involved.
The US State Department called the situation disturbing in a statement.
“We are aware of and disturbed by what was said about the death of Ms. Kandula in body camera 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.”
“It taints the law enforcement profession and the reputation of all Seattle police officers and casts Seattle in a terrible light,” the union said.
“We feel deep sadness and sadness for the family of Jaahnavi Kandula as this video re-victimizes them in an already tragic situation as they continue to mourn her death. We’re really sorry.”
However, 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 released.”