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TX Entrepreneur's Death By Police Prompts Calls for Police Reform

Rajan Moonesinghe, a tech entrepreneur known as Raj, believed there was an intruder in his house the day he was shot and killed by police. His neighbor Melody Bing and a private security guard for his neighbor, a technology chief executive, were watching Raj, 33, before the shooting when he told Bing he was going to call 911. Police were on the scene within five minutes, arriving just after Raj fired two shots into his living room. Taking cover behind a fence down the street, officer Daniel Sanchez yelled “drop the gun.” He began firing before he finished the sentence, body camera video shows, hitting Moonesinghe four times. His Nov. 15 death sent shock waves through Austin’s tech community, putting a city with a history of high-profile police shootings in a difficult situation with influential new residents it has tried hard to woo, reports the Wall Street Journal. InKind, the finance and technology app Moonesinghe co-founded with his brother, is grappling with its future in Austin. His family and friends, including wealthy entrepreneurs and private-equity investors in the tech community that flocked from California to Texas’ “Silicon Hills,” are mobilizing millions of dollars to fund police reform. “I am going to use all of my resources to make sure this does not happen again,” said Johann Moonesinghe, CEO of InKind, who vowed to spend millions to pursue justice for his brother and community change. “I want to work [with the city], but if they’re not going to work with us, I will outspend them.”

The shooting remains under investigation. Officer Sanchez has been a licensed police officer for two years and 11 months. He is on administrative leave and is being represented by attorneys from his union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which said he “followed his training in order to protect lives.” Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the shooting a tragedy but said he is waiting for more information to decide whether it was justified. “I have a lot of questions, as I know the family does,” he said. “Why did it happen?” Austin police have killed at least 20 people in the past five years, the ninth-highest per capita rate of the 25 largest U.S., says the data-collection project Mapping Police Violence. A 2019 report by the University of Texas found that Austin had the highest per capita rate of police shootings during mental-health calls of the 15 largest cities in the U.S. Elected leaders have put resources into mental-health intervention and ordered police to adjust cadet training. Johann Moonesinghe and friends say unconscious bias played a role in the shooting of Moonesinghe, a dark-skinned Asian man. Sanchez is Hispanic. Some experts said that anyone firing a rifle in a neighborhood is automatically considered a threat. Others called the police’s actions hasty. Jon Blum, a former North Carolina officer who has developed training protocols for hundreds of agencies, said police should have identified themselves and approached from a position to engage Moonesinghe before shooting him.

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