On Wednesday, King County Prosecutors announced their decision not to bring charges against Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave, who struck and killed 23-year-old college student Jaahnavi Kandula while she crossed in a crosswalk in January 2023. Dave remained on duty with the department, and the administrative investigation into his conduct paused while prosecutors reviewed whether he should face criminal charges. The Office of Police Accountability must now complete its investigation into whether Dave violated any department policies when he hit Kandula, and whether his actions amounted to a fireable offense.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) brought in an outside firm, ACES, Inc., to review the case materials involving Dave’s hitting of Kandula, which reviewed the Seattle Police Department’s investigation. The ACES report found nothing wrong with SPD Detective Brett Shoenberg’s investigation, which said that the case did not did not turn up enough evidence for prosecutors to prove felony charges against Dave beyond a reasonable doubt. Amy Freedheim, head of the KCPAO’s Felony Traffic Unit, said that to prove a charge of vehicular homicide the office would need to show that Dave “consciously” drove with “reckless disregard for the safety of others.” 

Dave hit Kandula on January 23, 2023 as she crossed in a crosswalk at the intersection of Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Street in South Lake Union. The impact caused her to fall unconscious, and responders took her to Harborview Medical Center, where she later died. Dave hit Kandula while traveling at about 63 miles per hour, and in the seconds before Dave saw her, his speeds reached up to 74 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone. SPD’s investigative report shows Dave attempting to brake a second before hitting her. Investigators determined that had Dave driven at a speed of 50 miles per hour, he could have avoided hitting her. After hitting Kandula, Dave called for emergency services and began CPR.

In a statement released to the public after Kandula’s death, SPD Chief Adrian Diaz said that Dave was heading to a Priority 1 overdose call at the time. Investigative reports show that a man called 911 to say he’d taken too much cocaine. The apartment where the man called from was about an eight-minute drive from the West Precinct. The KCPAO said Wednesday that SPD dispatch told Dave that the man was on the phone with 911 and waiting outside to speak with police, somewhat undercutting the seriousness of the call.

Prior to the collision, Dave had his patrol car’s emergency lights activated, but he did not have his police sirens continuously running. When approaching intersections and red lights he “chirped” his sirens, meaning he turned them on for a couple seconds, according to the memo from the KCPAO. Less than a second before he hit Kandula, Dave chirped his sirens again.

The KCPAO’s Freedheim acknowledged that some could argue that Dave’s speed, plus his decision not to continuously run his sirens might have amounted to negligence, but that negligent driving does not amount to felony criminal charges under Washington State law. 

Freedheim also pointed out that two schools of thought exist when it comes to sirens, and some police officers prefer to chirp sirens as a way to call attention to the emergency vehicle. She added that a defense attorney might argue that Kandula had headphones in, making it harder for her to hear the police siren’s chirp. Freedheim also pointed out that video footage showed her safely in a non-travel lane of the crosswalk when she noticed Dave’s patrol car, and she appears to make a split-second decision to run across the street. Under Washington State Law, a defense attorney could argue that her decision to run across the street caused the accident, Freedheim said. However, in the SPD investigation the detective noted that Kandula likely did not have enough time to properly analyze whether she was in the path of the car and how fast it was traveling. 

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion met with several members of Kandula’s family Wednesday to inform them of the office’s decision, and she plans to schedule a follow-up meeting to speak with Kandula’s mother, who lives in India. Manion released a statement calling Kandula’s death “heartbreaking.” 

She also stressed that her decision has nothing to do with the “appalling and deeply troubling” comments made by Seattle police union vice president Daniel Auderer. Body camera footage captured Auderer laughing about Kandula’s death after he responded to the scene of the crash. Earlier this year, the OPA recommended that Diaz fire Auderer for his comments. 

With Manion’s office declining to prosecute, SPD can refer the case to City Attorney Ann Davison’s office for misdemeanor charges. SPD did not immediately respond to a question about whether they planned to ask Davison to review the case. Manion’s decision also restarted the clock on the OPA investigation, which will determine whether Dave faces any discipline from the department.

Dave joined the department in 2019 and received a hiring bonus. He previously had his Arizona driver’s license suspended in 2018 for unpaid traffic fines and failure to appear in court, according to reporting from DivestSPD. He previously worked for the Tucson Police Department for about a year and a half in 2013, but he left for unknown reasons.

Community activists have called for SPD to fire Dave for his actions leading to Kandula’s death, and they’ve also called for criminal charges to be brought against him. In response to Manion's decision, the Seattle Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said it plans to hold a protest at 6 pm Friday outside the West Precinct.