Officer Who Fatally Hit Student With Cruiser Avoids Criminal Charges

A police officer in Seattle who fatally hit a graduate student with his cruiser on his way to a reported overdose will not be criminally charged, according to a recent court decision.

Officer Kevin Dave of the Seattle Police Department has been charged with second-degree negligent driving a year after he fatally struck Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student at Northeastern University, on Jan. 23, 2023.

Instead of criminal charges related to accidental death or vehicular homicide, Dave now faces paying civil damages of up to $5,000. The non-criminal infraction was filed on Friday, Mar. 1 in the Municipal Court of Seattle. It comes shortly after an announcement from the King County Prosecutor’s Office that the policeman would not be criminally charged.

Dave reportedly hit Kandula when she was walking in a crosswalk, causing her to be thrown more than 130 feet. The officer was driving at 74-mph on a road that was 25-mph when he hit the student with his cruiser.

Various evidence including dashboard camera footage proves the high speed at which Dave was driving, en route to a top priority case of an overdose, and shows that his emergency lights were on at the time but his sirens were not. The Seattle Police Department has also been met with backlash for conducting an internal investigation of the incident rather than bringing in a third party to assess the situation.

Following the tragedy, a separate investigation was launched against Officer Daniel Auderer, who came on the scene of the accident to assess Dave. At the time, the officer determined that his colleague showed no signs of impairment.

However, Auderer sparked outrage when bodycam footage was released in Sept. 2023, revealing the officer apparently making jokes about Kandula’s tragic death. In the footage, Auderer can be heard laughing when discussing the fatal accident with someone on the phone with Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

He also makes a joke that the city should just “write a check” and that, due to her young age, the victim’s life “had limited value.”

According to investigators, the case has “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Dave had acted in a way that was “consciously disregarding safety.” They noted that negligent driving “does not meet the legal threshold for felony criminal charges” in Washington state.

The response to the tragedy has led to public protest and vigils on behalf of the deceased student. On Mar. 3, members of the community joined together in a walk of solidarity at the site of the crash, in response to the traffic citation issued to Officer Dave.