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US assures India of strong action against cop who joked about Indian student’s death

India has demanded the US authorities take strict action in a case involving a Seattle cop joking over the tragic death of a student of Indian origin. Following this, the US has also assured the Indian side of prompt action.

The 23-year-old student, identified as Jaahnavi Kandula, was hit by an overspeeding police vehicle earlier in January this year. The police car, cruising at a speed of 120 kmph, was allegedly on the way to attend to a report of an overdose.

A video released by the Seattle Police Department on Monday (Sept. 11) showed another police officer laughing and joking about the accident.

In the video, which has now gone viral on social media, Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Vice President Daniel Auderer can be heard saying, “She is dead” before bursting out into laughter and referring to Kandula as “a regular person”.

In the end, the officer says, “She was 26 anyway, she had limited value”, getting her age wrong.

India demands action

Indian Consulate in San Francisco on Wednesday (Sept 13) termed the incident “deeply troubling,” while calling on the US authorities to conduct a thorough investigation. 

“We have taken up the matter strongly with local authorities in Seattle & Washington State as well as senior officials in Washington DC for a thorough investigation & action against those involved in this tragic case,” the mission said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

“The Consulate & Embassy will continue to closely follow up on this matter with all concerned authorities,” it added.

Assurances by US

After India raised the issue, senior officials in the Biden administration are believed to have assured the Indian side of prompt action, India’s news agency PTI reported. 

The officials have assured that the matter is indeed being taken seriously by the US authorities. Expressing “shock” and “horror” over the incident, the officials said they are monitoring the investigation and the progress of the case from Washington DC in order to ensure adequate accountability, according to the PTI report.

Statement by  Seattle Community Police Commission 

As the shocking video surfaced on social media, the Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) issued a statement Monday, calling the conversation of the accused police officer, “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.”

‘The people of Seattle deserve better from a police department that is charged with fostering trust with the community and ensuring public safety,” the CPC added.

Who was Jaahnavi Kandula?

Kandula, originally from India’s Andhra Pradesh, was enrolled in a master’s programme at Northeastern University in Seattle, as mentioned in a GoFundMe campaign initiated to assist her family.

“The family has nothing to say. Except I wonder if these men’s daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life,” her uncle, Ashok Kandula, was quoted as saying on the page.