Family of Texan entrepreneur shot dead by police says he was defending his home

    A Texas tech entrepreneur didn’t get enough time to drop a shotgun he was carrying on his own porch before he was fatally shot by police last month, his devastated family told NBC News.

    Rajan “Raj” Moonesinghe, 33, had returned from a trip and suspected his home had been broken into in the early morning hours of November 15. Then he held a shotgun outside his front door and was met by an Austin police officer who quickly shot him and ordered Moonesinghe to drop the gun almost at the same time, family members said.

    In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Moonesinghe’s mother, Ruth, and brother, Johann, said they are heartbroken and are demanding answers from Austin police about why their loved one was killed so quickly before they were given a reasonable amount of time to drop the gun. .

    “He didn’t do anything wrong,” said Johann Moonesinghe. “He had a gun… he was defending his house and he didn’t point the gun. He was not menacing. He didn’t look like he was going to shoot anyone.”

    Moonesinghe’s mother, Ruth, and brother, Johann.NBC news

    Moonesinghe said his brother was given a gun to protect himself and that recent crimes had been committed in the area.

    “He called his friend and he said I think something moved in my house. Something strange is going on.”

    “Thank you for this great gift”

    Ruth Moonesinghe described her son, the co-founder of a restaurant consultancy, as a “great gift” to her and many others.

    “I just wanted to hold him… and say, ‘I love him. Thank you for being this wonderful gift I had,'” she said. “I’m just sad. I wasn’t there because… that shouldn’t have happened to him.”

    Austin police said in a statement that the fatal shooting occurred around 12:30 p.m

    They said a 911 caller told an emergency room that a man in a gray robe and dark pants was pointing a shotgun into the street.

    The caller also said the man pointed his shotgun at the inside of his home, police said. The caller then stated that the man had just shot at his own house. According to the reporter, the police were on the scene and the man fired again.

    Police identified the officer who fired at Moonesinghe as Daniel Sanchez, who is now on administrative leave.

    “Officer Sanchez was the first to observe Mr. Moonesinghe and gave him a verbal order to drop the gun. Immediately after telling Mr. Moonesinghe to drop the gun, Officer Sanchez fired his Department-approved firearm at Mr. Moonesinghe. Mr. Moonesinghe was beaten and fell to the ground,” the police said.

    Rajan Moonesinghe and his mother.
    Rajan Moonesinghe and his mother.Family photo

    Two other officers initially responded to the call. One of those officers ordered Moonesinghe to show his hands after he was shot.

    “The officers immediately started life-saving measures,” the police said. Moonesinghe died at a local hospital, police said.

    Sanchez has been with the department for two years and nine months, police said. They said two investigations into the shooting are ongoing.

    One is a criminal investigation by the department’s Special Investigations Unit in conjunction with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The second is an administrative inquiry conducted by the Department’s Internal Affairs unit, overseen by the Office of Police Oversight.

    ‘The officer followed his training’

    Sanchez was not immediately available for comment Friday. A statement from attorneys for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, or CLEAT, said Sanchez was following police protocol.

    “CLEAT attorneys responded to an incident on November 15 involving one of our members. We represent the Austin Police Officer and feel it is important to recognize that while this event is a tragedy, the officer has undergone training to protect lives,” the statement said.

    Evidence released by police on Thursday – including a 911 call to the police, a Ring camera video of Moonesinghe’s home and body camera images of officers – shed additional light on the deadly encounter.

    Rajan “Raj” Moonesinghe outside his home on Nov. 15.Ring

    The two-minute Ring video shows Moonesinghe carrying the shotgun outside his house as he walks to the street. He appears to hold the shotgun aloft for a moment before turning and walking to his front door and aiming the shotgun.

    He seems to be saying, “Yeah, do you want this?” A few seconds pass and then Moonesinghe says, “Are you sure?” “Oh my God, you are f—— stupid. You are stupid.’

    He then points the shotgun at the doorway and a loud gunshot is heard as a police car drives by in the background of the video. Then a second police car passes. According to the video, a second shot can be heard while Moonesinghe is not in view of the camera.

    He then comes into view of the camera and is walking on his front porch when something like “drop the gun” is shouted, and several shots are heard on the video almost simultaneously.

    Moonesinghe then falls to the ground and yells, “It wasn’t me.” He then shouts an expletive, show the video. “Subject is down, hands are up” can be heard on the video.

    Moonesinghe again seems to be saying, “It wasn’t me.”

    Rajan Moonesinghe.
    Rajan Moonesinghe.Family photo

    According to the video, an officer then appears to shout: “Show us your hands. Do it now.”

    Moonesinghe yells again, “It wasn’t me.”

    Video from Sanchez’s body camera shows the officer exiting his vehicle with what appears to be a rifle. He shouts “drop the gun” and then fires three shots, followed by two more.

    ‘He almost seems to be afraid of something’

    In the 911 audio, a caller can be heard telling the dispatcher that there was a man outside with a gun and “pointing it down the street.” During the 6 minute call, the caller also tells the dispatcher that the man later stood in the doorway of his home with the gun in a “low-ready” position.

    The control room asked if the man appeared to be drunk or on drugs. The caller said he was too firm to be drunk, but couldn’t say anything about drugs. The operator asked if the man had any mental health issues, and the caller said, “Considering how paranoid he’s acting, he might be.”

    Rajan Moonesinghe's house.
    Rajan Moonesinghe’s house.KXAN

    The caller added, “He almost seems to be afraid of something in his house. … Looks like he’s pointing the gun at the inside of his house.”

    The caller then alerts the dispatcher that the man fired the gun.

    He tells the dispatcher that the police have arrived, then says, “He fired again.”

    CORRECTION (December 2, 2022, 7:37 p.m. ET): In an earlier version of this article, the first name of the brother of the man shot by the police was incorrectly stated. He’s Johann, not Rohann, Moonesinghe

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