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US: Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula, killed in Seattle, to be awarded master's degree posthumously

"Callous and insensitive remarks by a Seattle police officer have become public, reopening wounds and deepening our collective heartbreak," said the Northeastern University.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Seattle Published on: September 16, 2023 16:19 IST
The 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula died after getting hit by
Image Source : PTI The 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula died after getting hit by a speeding police vehicle in Seattle.

Jaanhavi Kandula death: The 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula, who died after being struck by a police vehicle in Seattle in January, will be awarded her master's degree posthumously, announced the Chancellor of Washington's Northeastern University on Friday.

Kandula was killed in January after she was struck by a police vehicle driven by Officer Kevin Dave. He was driving more than 119 kmph on the way to a report of a drug overdose, as per reports. 

Her death recently came into higher scrutiny after a bodycam footage went viral showing officer Officer Daniel Auderer apparently laughing about the deadly crash and dismissed any implication Dave might be at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary. "Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway," Auderer said in the video, misstating Kandula's age. "She had limited value," he was quoted as saying.

Kenneth W Henderson, Chancellor of Northeastern University, expressed grief in a statement on Friday and said that the institution plans to award Kandula her degree posthumously and present it to her family.

"In the days following this tragedy, our Seattle campus community joined together in a vigil of remembrance and solidarity... Her loss will be felt deeply by students, staff, and faculty," read the statement. 

The statement also criticised the apparent "callous and insensitive" remarks by the Seattle police officer and said that they "reopened wounds" and deepened "collective heartbreak". "We also recognize that our Indian student community—across all Northeastern campuses—has been especially impacted by this tragedy and its aftermath. We stand in solidarity with you and have every expectation that the ongoing investigations will bring a measure of justice and accountability," said the university.

India's reaction

India has taken up Kandula's case with the US government as well as with local officials in Washington state. The Biden administration has assured the Indian government of a quick investigation into the death and bring officers responsible for the incident to justice.

"We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle and Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation and action against those involved in this tragic case," said the Consulate General of India in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, strongly raised the issue at the highest level in Washington and sought prompt action on the killing of Kandula, and the highly insensitive behaviour of the police officer in Seattle in Washington state.

However, Seattle police came out in defence of police officer Auderer, saying the viral videos showed one part of the conversation and failed to provide context. Auderer himself claimed that his remarks were aimed towards mocking the lawyers who would take up the issue.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | US: Seattle police defends cop laughing over Indian student's death, says video 'taken out of context'

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