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Seattle officer in controversial bodycam video explained context of statements in letter to OPA

Ofc. Daniel Auderer said in a letter to OPA that he was mocking how lawyers negotiate the monetary value of human life in incidents like Jaahnavi Kandula's death.

SEATTLE — The officer whose controversial statements about the death of 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula were captured on body cam video said his comments were shared without context, according to a letter he sent to the Office of Police Accountability (OPA).

The Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) shared an Aug. 8 letter Ofc. Daniel Auderer sent to the OPA after the body cam footage was sent to department leadership. SPOG released the letter Friday, four days after Seattle police released the body cam video to the public.

SPOG said Auderer was asking OPA for a "rapid adjudication," which is an expedited employee misconduct investigation. Auderer wrote that he was speaking sarcastically to SPOG President Mike Solan about the way lawyers negotiate the value of human life in incidents like Kandula's death. 

Kandula was struck and killed by a Seattle police officer who was on his way to a call in January. Kandula was walking through a crosswalk and was hit by an officer going 63 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone. 

Auderer, who is the vice president of SPOG, was captured on body cam video saying, "but she is dead" and laughing while on the phone with Solan. 

"She was 26 anyway," Auderer said in the video. "She had limited value."

At the time, Auderer was on his way to perform a field sobriety test on the officer who struck and killed Kandula. 

Auderer acknowledged that without context, the comments "could be interpreted as horrifying and crude." 

Auderer wrote in part: 

"During that phone call, Mike Solan stated something to the effect that it was unfortunate that this would turn into lawyers arguing ‘The value of human life.’ Mike Solan asked me as he was lamenting the loss of life something similar to: ‘ What crazy argument can a lawyer make in something like this? What crazy thing can they come up with.’ 

I responded with something like: ‘She’s 26 years old, what value is there, who cares.’ I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers – I was imitating what a lawyer tasked with negotiating the case would be saying and being sarcastic to express that they shouldn’t be coming up with crazy arguments to minimize the payment. I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I have watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy."

Read Auderer's entire letter to OPA here. 

The statements incited outrage and brought national and international attention to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Kandula's death, which is still being investigated by both SPD and OPA. The video was first brought to the attention of SPD Chief Adrian Diaz and OPA by an employee who notified department leadership of their concerns. An OPA investigation into Auderer's comments is ongoing. 

"She was very, very valuable. This has hit too close to home. She was a kid. She was 23 years old,” said Deepali Jamwal, the owner of a dance studio that is one block away from where Jaahnavi Kandula lost her life. 

She says the Union's statement does not satisfy her, and she is still disturbed by the detective's remarks.

“It was disgusting. I was in disbelief. It was horrendous. It is inexcusable. I am infuriated,” she said.

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