- A Seattle police officer was captured on bodycam footage making insensitive comments about the death of a woman who was run over by police.
- In the video, the officer can be heard saying that the 23-year-old student had “limited value.”
- A lawyer believes that the officer’s remarks could actually result in a costly civil lawsuit payout.
The Seattle Police Department has faced backlash this week following the release of bodycam footage showing an officer laughing about the death of a pedestrian killed by police.
While police officers are typically protected from legal consequences, this case may be an exception, as the officer’s inappropriate comments could sway a civil jury in favor of the victim’s family.
The SPD shared the bodycam footage on Monday, revealing officer Daniel Auderer joking on a phone call with the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild shortly after the incident where a fellow officer fatally struck a 23-year-old student with his patrol car, as reported by NBC News.
In the video, Auderer can be heard saying, “She is dead,” followed by laughter. The guild president, Mike Solan, is not audible in the video.
Auderer then adds, “Yeah, just write a check,” before laughing again. “Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer inaccurately states, referring to the woman, Jaahnavi Kandula. “She had limited value.”
The SPD issued a statement acknowledging that the bodycam footage was initially discovered by a department employee who raised concerns about Auderer’s comments. The Chief’s Office then reported the matter to the Office for Police Accountability (OPA) for investigation.
A local conservative talk show host, Jason Rantz, revealed on KTTH-AM that he obtained a copy of the incident report submitted to the OPA office. According to Rantz, Auderer stated in the report that his comments were intended as satire to highlight how the city’s lawyers might downplay the death.
“I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers,” Auderer wrote, as quoted by KTTH. “I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy.”
Commenting on the report, attorney Rivera suggests that Auderer realized his severe mistake and immediately tried to cover it up.
“When you work in government, you learn how to navigate this game to survive,” Rivera added. “Because if you don’t, your mistakes can be used against you. But if you know the right people, it’s easy to cover them up.”
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office is conducting a criminal review of the incident that caused Kandula’s death, as reported by KTLA, but no charges have been filed yet. The police department has confirmed that the OPA is investigating Auderer’s comments and any potential policy violations.
When contacted for a response on Wednesday, the Seattle Police Department declined to comment on whether the involved officers have faced disciplinary measures.
The victim’s family has a strong case for a civil claim, according to an attorney
Police officers are often shielded from civil liability under the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which protects public officials from being sued for actions performed in their official capacity.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of personal-injury firm West Coast Trial Lawyers, believes that Kandula’s family could successfully file a wrongful death claim against the police department. Rahmani points out that the officer failed to consistently use his siren at the time of the crash, according to police reports. The bodycam footage would further strengthen the family’s case if they choose to pursue a lawsuit.
“This kind of behavior is likely to anger the jury,” Rahmani said. “It has the potential to inflame their emotions.”
Rahmani also noted that the video evidence could support the family’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the police.
According to Rahmani, Auderer’s comment that Kandula was 26 and had “limited value” might actually work in favor of the victim’s family.
“She had so much more life ahead,” Rahmani explained. “Juries tend to award less compensation to older individuals who have limited years left.”
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