The death of a student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus who was struck by a police cruiser while crossing the street has become a flashpoint for critics of the city’s police force.
Some 50 people marched through Seattle on Sunday, many holding signs demanding justice for Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student from India who was struck by a police SUV rushing to a call last week, according to the Seattle Times and police statements.
Kandula was struck around 8 p.m. on Jan. 23 in a crosswalk near the intersection of Dexter Avenue North and Thomas Street in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood by a marked cruiser heading to a “priority one” call with Seattle firefighters, according to police and the Seattle Times. Priority one calls generally mean an officer is driving with lights and sirens operating.
Since then, the department has been criticized for failing to release details about the crash, including the name of the police officer who was driving the marked SUV.
The driver was identified by Seattle police Monday as Officer Kevin Dave, after his name was made public by a group called DivestSPD, which describes itself as “Seattle’s grassroots police watchdog,” and published by the Seattle Times. Seattle police confirmed to the Globe that Dave was the officer driving the SUV and said he had joined the department in 2019, but declined to share his employment status.
The department said it is using the same procedure to investigate the crash as it would for any crash causing serious injury.
“We will provide all publicly releasable information, including the report, once we are able to do so, and in consultation with the family,” police wrote. “We extend our deepest condolences to Ms. Kandula’s family and friends. This incident is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved.”
A Northeastern spokesperson said Monday that “because this tragic incident is currently under investigation it would be inappropriate for the university to comment at this time.”
Kandula was a native of India who was raised by a single mother. She reluctantly left home to continue her education at Northeastern’s Seattle campus, according to a GoFundMe site that raised $153,000 from 4,600 donors.
“Jaahnavi cared deeply for her mom. So much so, that in spite of severe homesickness, she came to the States to pursue her dreams and to create a better future for her mom & sister,” the organizers wrote. “While Jaahnavi may not be here with us anymore, her dream will live on. Your generous donation will help realize that dream.”
The organizers have stopped accepting donations and promised to share with donors how the money will support Kandula’s family.
In a letter to the Seattle campus last week, Dean David Thurman said Kandula arrived from Bengaluru, India in 2021 to pursue a master’s of science degree in information systems from the College of Engineering. She was scheduled to graduate in December 2023.
“Jaahnavi is remembered as a stellar student and a delightful and effervescent human being,” Thurman wrote. “She was a close friend to many and friends shared that they loved her bubbly laugh, sense of humor, and infectious personality.”
Before arriving in Seattle, Kandula worked for CAMTek Solutions in India and on campus worked as an administrative and events assistant, according to Thurman.
“Her loss will be felt deeply by students, staff, and faculty across campus,” he wrote.
Globe correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.