By Erica C. Barnett
The Seattle Police Department, which could soon be released from a federal consent decree imposed in 2012, has been noticeably silent about the outcome of its internal investigation into officer Kevin Dave, who struck and killed a pedestrian, Jaahnavi Kandula, in January while on his way to the scene of a drug-related 911 call nearby.
However, PubliCola has confirmed that SPD has referred Dave’s case to the King County prosecutor’s office, which is reviewing the case and will decide whether to charge Dave with a crime. According to the prosecutor’s office, it’s unlikely a decision will come before July.
SPD declined to respond to questions; a spokesperson said the department had “no updates or timelines in regards to the investigation of this case.”
The department has claimed that the officer, Kevin Dave, was responding “as an EMT” to an overdose; separately, both SPD and the Seattle Fire Department have said the reason Dave needed to get to the call quickly is that people coming out of opioid overdoses can behave erratically and violently, threatening the safety of first responders.
However, the audio of the 911 call, which PubliCola received through a records request, revealed that the caller had used cocaine, not opiates, and was breathing heavily but calm when he called 911 to report that he was “freaking out.” He met medics from the fire department outside his apartment and declined additional care.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office was not immediately able to say whether SPD’s referral was statutory—meaning the department was required by law to send it to prosecutors—or a case where the department believes the officer may have committed a crime. SPD declined to provide any information about the case, saying they had “no updates.”
Back in February, the Community Police Commission asked Police Chief Adrian Diaz to explain why Dave engaged in “emergency” (high-speed) driving; Diaz responded that Dave was “responding to assist the Seattle Fire Department with an overdose according to established interdepartmental protocols.”
In a followup letter on June 9, prompted in part by a KUOW report revealing that few officers have taken the emergency driving courses required by a new state law loosening restrictions on police pursuits, the CPC’s co-chairs asked Diaz for details about how many officers have completed emergency driving courses and to explain why the department’s requirements for emergency vehicle operations (what Dave was purportedly doing when he struck Kandula) are lower than its policies for pursuing a person who is attempting to flee.
SPD previously confirmed that it was conducting a criminal investigation into Dave. Earlier this year, the department “categorically” rejected PubliCola’s public disclosure requests for documents related to the investigation, citing the fact that the investigation was still ongoing. A spokesperson did not respond to our question about when we could file another request without it, too, being “categorically” rejected. Since the referral to the prosecutor’s office suggests that SPD’s internal investigation may be complete, PubliCola has filed another records request.
Dave is still employed by SPD.