A Seattle cop was caught on bodycam footage joking about the death of a woman run over by police.
He can be heard saying that the 23-year-old student had "limited value."
A lawyer says the officer's comments may prove the exact opposite with a costly civil lawsuit payout.
The Seattle Police Department has been under fire this week after an officer was caught laughing about the death of a pedestrian run over and killed by police.
But while cops are often shielded from legal liability, this case might prove an exception — and the jokes about the woman's death could help a civil jury side with her family.
The SPD released bodycam footage on Monday showing an officer, Daniel Auderer, seeming to joke on a phone call with the president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild shortly after responding to an incident where another officer fatally struck a 23-year-old student with his patrol car, NBC News reported.
In the video, Auderer can be heard saying "She is dead," then laughing. The guild president on the other line, Mike Solan, cannot be heard in the video.
Auderer then adds, "Yeah, just write a check," before laughing again. "Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway," Auderer says in the video, misstating the age of the woman, Jaahnavi Kandula. "She had limited value."
The SPD said in a statement that the bodycam footage was first discovered by a department employee. Concerned about the nature of Auderer's comments, that employee escalated them to the Chief's Office, who reported them to the Office for Police Accountability (OPA), the SPD said.
The host of a conservative local talk show, Jason Rantz, reported on KTTH-AM that he had obtained a copy of the report about the incident submitted to the OPA office. In the report that Rantz said he obtained, Auderer wrote that his comments were actually meant to satirize the way the city's lawyers might try to minimize the death, not to mock the death itself.
"I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers," Auderer wrote, according to 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."
A criminal review of the crash that killed Kandula is being conducted by the King County Prosecuting Attorney's office, KTLA reported, but no charges have been filed. The police department said the OPA is investigating Auderer's comments and whether he violated any policies.
When reached for comment on Wednesday, the Seattle Police Department declined to answer whether the involved officers have faced disciplinary measures.
Kandula's family has a strong case for a civil claim, attorney says
Police officers are often shielded from civil liability when they kill people on the job because of a legal doctrine known as "qualified immunity" which excludes public officials from being sued based on actions that they take while acting in their official capacity.
Neama Rahmani, the president of a personal-injury firm West Coast Trial Lawyers, and a former federal prosceutor, told Insider he thinks Kandula's family has a good case to make a wrongful death claim against the police department because the officer was not consistently using his siren at the time of the crash, according to police. According to Rahmani, the body camera footage would strengthen the family's claim should they decide to bring a lawsuit.
"This is the type of thing that's going to piss off jurors," Rahmani said. "It can inflame the jury."
Rahmani added that the video footage would be especially helpful to Kandula's family in claiming damages against the police based on intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to Rahmani, Auderer's comment that Kandula was 26 and had "limited value" will likely help her family prove the opposite.
"You have so many more years to live," Rahmani told Insider. "Jurys tend to give less money to someone who is older and infirm and doesn't have the whole life ahead of them."
Read the original article on Insider