1. Unredacted audio of the 911 call to which Seattle police officer Kevin Dave was allegedly responding when he struck and killed student Jaahnavi Kandula in January further confirms 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.” PubliCola obtained the audio through a records request.
Police Chief Adrian Diaz has said Dave was responding “as an EMT” to provide medical aid at a Priority 1 overdose call when he hit Kandula. Dave is certified as an EMT, but there is no evidence beyond Diaz’ statement that he was responding as a medic rather than a police officer, and the 911 call itself contradicts that claim.
SPD has also said police need to be present when Fire Department medics are reviving someone from an opiate overdose in order to provide backup if the person is violent when they come to and to keep people from stealing items or intervening while SFD medics are occupied with rescue breathing and other lifesaving measures. However, the full recording of the 911 call makes it clear that the caller had used cocaine, not opiates, and told the dispatcher his symptoms were “starting to go away” by the end of the six-and-a-half-minute call.
In the first moments of the recording, the caller, a man in his 20s, told the dispatcher, “I did cocaine and I don’t know if I’m having an overdose. I think I’m over-amped.” After being transferred to a dispatcher for Medic One, the Seattle Fire Department’s emergency medical response team, the caller added that he was “trying not to freak out” and was standing outside his apartment building. “Do you think you’ve overdosed?” the dispatcher asked. “I looked it up and I think so,” he said. “I’m extremely anxious,” the caller added, and “shaking a little bit.”
The original dispatcher then kept the man on the line, telling him to breathe and getting more information. “Am I going to get in trouble?” the man asked. “Oh, no,” the dispatcher responded. “I’m still just kind of freaking out right now, but it’s starting to go away,” the caller said. By the end of the call, the dispatcher and caller were joking about the weather. “At least it’s not raining today, right?” the dispatcher said. “That’s one way to look at it, yeah,” the caller responded.
SPD is doing an internal investigation into whether Dave was acting within SPD policy when he hit Kandula in a marked and lighted South Lake Union intersection. Three months after the crash, the department has not said when it will conclude its investigation.
2. The state senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that will lower the standard of evidence required for police officers across the state to initiate vehicle pursuits, sending the bill to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk.
Under SB 5352, sponsored by Senator John Lovick (D-44 Lake Stevens), officers will only need to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a driver has committed a violent crime or is driving under the influence. The bill reverses a 2021 change in state law that raised the standard for most offenses, apart from DUI, to a higher “probable cause” standard, which requires more evidence, with the aim of reducing pursuits overall.
The policy change nearly failed to move forward earlier this session, when state house leaders declined to bring their version of the bill to the floor for a vote ahead of a key deadline, prompting state senate leaders, in a dramatic move, to bring the bill to the floor even though it had never received a hearing in that chamber.
“I am asking you to vote no because the people trusted us, and they are disappointed that we are rolling back something that they thought put us on the first step to accountability.” —Debra Entenman (D-47, Covington)
Inslee is expected to sign the bill. “I think we need to move this needle, I think that’s where the public is,” he said in early March.
The house approved the bill on April 10, with opposition from both Republicans who wanted it to go further and allow more pursuits for non-violent offenses like auto thefts, and from Democrats who say the current policy, which allows fewer pursuits, is saving lives.
Many Democrats view the reversal as a step back for police accountability in Washington. Before the house floor vote earlier this month, Representative Debra Entenman (D-47, Covington) noted that the bill reversed recommendations made by legislative task force created in 2020 in response to nationwide protests over racial injustice.
“I am asking you to vote no because the people trusted us…and they are disappointed that we are rolling back something that they thought put us on the first step to accountability,” she said.
Last year, the legislature rolled back another 2021 law that prevented police from using force to prevent people from walking away from investigative stops, also known as Terry stops.
A previous version of the pursuit bill included a 2025 sunset date, but that’s no longer in the bill. Some of Washington’s largest police departments, like Seattle and Tacoma, already have policies in place that require a higher standard of evidence to pursue a suspect.
—Erica C. Barnett, Ryan Packer