News, Culture & Society

‘It wasn’t me,’ said Austin tech entrepreneur Raj Moonesinghe, who was shot dead by police

A horrifying video shows Austin tech entrepreneur Rajan ‘Raj’ Moonesinghe being shot dead by local police as he inspected the perimeter of his home for an intruder with a rifle in his hands.

Moonesinghe, 33, a successful tech entrepreneur who had moved to the area about five years ago, was killed on the front porch of his home in a wealthy South Austin neighborhood on November 15. As he lay dying, he said the words: ‘It wasn’t me.’

At around 12.30am, Moonesinghe told a neighbor that someone was in his house and he was going to call 911, the WSJ reported.

Police arrived on the scene just five minutes later, moments after Moonesinghe fired two shots into his own living room – and fired the four shots that killed the businessman. 

Raj Moonesinghe, 33, moments before being fatally shot by Austin police as he conducts a perimeter inspection of his home, which he believed someone had entered as an intruder

Across the street from his home, a private security guard for his neighbor had already called the police to report what Moonesinghe was doing.

The guard said in a call to a dispatcher, ‘He almost seems to be scared of something inside his house.’

‘He’s pointing the rifle at the interior of his home,’ he said, before Moonesinghe called into his living room before firing shots inside.

Nearly as soon as they had arrived, Officer Daniel Sanchez shouted ‘drop the gun,’ though he began firing before he’d finished the sentence. 

It is likely that Moonesinghe hadn’t heard anything before being hit since bullets travel faster than the speed of sound.

The 33-year-old of Sri Lankan descent was taken to the hospital, where he died shortly thereafter of his injuries. No one else was harmed during the encounter and police did not find an intruder in the South Austin home. 

According to a preliminary autopsy ordered by the victim’s family, Moonesinghe was hit four times. A full medical report is yet to be released by the county medical examiner.

Raj's South Austin four-bedroom, four-bathroom house, in front of which he was shot

Raj’s South Austin four-bedroom, four-bathroom house, in front of which he was shot

The 33-year-old tech entrepreneur Raj Moonesinghe, who was known by his community as a selfless friend and family members and hardworking businessman

The 33-year-old tech entrepreneur Raj Moonesinghe, who was known by his community as a selfless friend and family members and hardworking businessman

Austin headquarters of the Moonesinghe brothers' successful financial technology startup, InKind, which was looking to expand radically over the course of 2023

Austin headquarters of the Moonesinghe brothers’ successful financial technology startup, InKind, which was looking to expand radically over the course of 2023

The Austin Police Department has yet to comment on the shooting. Sanchez has been a licensed officer with the force for nearly three years.

The shooting is still under investigation and Officer Sanchez is on administrative leave. His attorneys said he ‘followed his training in order to protect lives.’

Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the fatality a tragedy, adding that he is waiting for more information before he arrives at an opinion.

‘I have a lot of questions, as I know the family does,’ he said. ‘Why did it happen?’

Together with his older brother Johann, Raj ran a financial technology company called InKind which provides upfront financing to restaurants.

The company has an annual revenue of $48 million and had plans to increase its 50-person Austin staff to 180 employees by the end of 2023.

Moonesinghe's brother, Johann, has sworn he will use 'all of my resources to make sure this does not happen again,' adding that he would prefer to work with local officials on the effort, but will outspend them if necessary. Raj is pictured here with his mother

Moonesinghe’s brother, Johann, has sworn he will use ‘all of my resources to make sure this does not happen again,’ adding that he would prefer to work with local officials on the effort, but will outspend them if necessary. Raj is pictured here with his mother

Raj Moonesinghe who was fatally shot by police while inspecting his home for intruders armed with a rifle on November 15

Raj Moonesinghe who was fatally shot by police while inspecting his home for intruders armed with a rifle on November 15

Following his brother’s tragic death, Johann is now unsure about the company’s future and is reluctant to ask anyone to relocate to Austin following his brother’s fatal shooting, because he is not sure it is safe.

He has now established a fund in memory of his brother named the Rajan David Moonesinghe Foundation. 

The goal of the organization is to prevent shootings like that of his brother from occurring again. 

This could include investing in nonlethal police tools, implicit bias training, taking out billboards across the country warning tech startups not to move to Austin.

Johann has vowed to use all of his resources to ensure no one else has to go through what he and his family are going through – adding that he would prefer to work with the city, ‘but if they’re not going to work with us, I will outspend them.’ 

The effort has raised $27,000 so far, not including a $1 million commitment from Doug Ludlow, the CEO of small business-assistance company MainStreet, who had known Raj since he was a boy.

Ludlow told the Wall Street Journal that if Austin is unable to square its police force issues, there are other US cities inline to become the next startup hub.

‘There is massive competition to create new startup hubs. If it’s not a safe community, especially for people of color, you will not create a tech hub here. Full stop,’ he said.

‘There are a lot of victims in our position out there that I’m sure have gone thro ugh this and they haven’t had the resources we have,’ Johann said.

‘We’ll do whatever it takes to get our voice heard. When Raj was buried, I made a promise to him. I said, ‘Raj, I will be an unstoppable force of justice for you. And I will make sure this doesn’t happen to another family.”

Raj’s devastated family and friends launched a petition to indict officer Sanchez that has so far accrued nearly 7,000 signatures.

‘Officer Sanchez’s action killed our friend, and he must be held accountable,’ reads the petition, which went on to describe Raj as ‘a deeply generous and kind person.’

‘Raj was not afforded even a millisecond to comply with orders to put down his rifle. He was defending his home, did not hurt anyone and as his family/friends, we know he would have put down the gun if given the chance.’

A linked petition provides instructions for calling District Attorney Jose Garza to ask for an update on the case and why, more than 30 days after the fatal shooting, there has been no statement made by the office about the case proceeding to a grand jury.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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