Seattle Police Chief: ‘No evidence of impairment’ in officer who hit, killed Northeastern student

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Tuesday identified the officer who was driving a police SUV that struck and killed a Northeastern University student at its Seattle campus last week.

Officer Kevin A. Dave was responding to a “Priority 1 call” when the Jan. 24 crash that killed graduate student Jaahnavi Kandula occurred, Diaz said in a video statement. Dave, who is certified as an EMT, has been with the department since November of 2019.

Following departmental protocol, a drug recognition expert responded to the crash scene and “found no evidence of impairment in the officer,” Diaz said.

Kandula, 23, was struck and killed while walking in a crosswalk near the intersection of Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Street in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. The crash occurred just after 8 p.m.

“At the time of the collision he was responding as an EMT was responding to a Priority 1 emergency call. He did have his emergency lights on and was clearing intersections with his siren,” Diaz said of Dave.

As with any crash on city streets, the fatal crash that killed Kandula is being investigated as a potential criminal matter by the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad, Diaz said.

“We are treating this investigation as we would any fatal collision investigation. The detectives in this squad are highly trained and certified in areas of physics, human factors and other specialized matters specific to collision reconstruction,” Diaz said. “Their investigation includes, for example, calculations as to vehicle operation and speed, lines of sight, lighting, roadway and traffic conditions, witness observations, any camera footage in the area.”

The investigation report will be forwarded to the King County prosecutor’s office “who will make any decision regarding charging,” Diaz said.

Police have also opened up an investigation as to whether the officer complied with departmental policy, he added.

“The Seattle Police Department continues to extend its deepest condolences to Ms. Kandula’s family and friends,” Diaz said.

Meanwhile, the Northeastern University community is mourning the loss of Kandula. In Seattle, a growing makeshift memorial contains flowers, candles and photographs of Kandula, an engineering student.

“Jaahnavi is remembered as a stellar student and a delightful and effervescent human being. She was a close friend to many and friends shared that they loved her bubbly laugh, sense of humor and infectious personality. Her loss will be felt deeply by students, staff, and faculty across campus,” David Thurman, dean and CEO of Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, said in a statement to Boston 25 on Monday.

Kandula came to Seattle from Bengaluru, India in 2021 to pursue a master’s degree in information systems in the College of Engineering, said Thurman. She was scheduled to graduate in December 2023.

Thurman called Kandula “a beloved member of our Seattle community.”

“Jaahnavi demonstrated strong analytical abilities in large-scale data management and a passion for resolving technical issues,” Thurman said. “She worked as a Junior Executive at CAMTek Solutions for two years examining technical and artistic outputs. Additionally, she worked as an Administrative & Events Assistant on the Seattle campus, supporting event management and providing administrative help.”

Kandula’s family also issued a statement, saying they are “truly heartbroken.”

“Jaahnavi was a brilliant student with a bright future. Jaahnavi’s smile was radiant, and her bubbly personality warmed the hearts of every person she came in contact with. She had an innate ability to connect with people from all walks of life,” the statement said. “Jaahnavi’s tragic and untimely death has left her family and community with a huge hole in their hearts that will never be repaired.”

Kandula was the daughter to a single mother who teaches elementary school in India, who earns less than $200 per month, the statement said.

“Her mother educated Jaahnavi and encouraged her to the United States hoping Jaahnavi would have a better future and a better life abroad,” the statement said. “Her mother’s hopes and dreams are cut short now. The family would like to get some closure and would like to know the circumstances behind the death. They demand that the Police and City officials release more information on how the death may have happened and what could have been done to avoid such a tragic accident. The family deserves answers to their questions, and her grieving mother deserves closure.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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