AUSTIN, Texas — Just over a month after an Austin police officer shot and killed a man standing on his front porch, the victim's brother announced he formed a foundation and will be investing millions of dollars into police reform.
The family of 33-year-old Rajan Moonesinghe claims he was shot by officers without warning.
On Nov. 15, APD officers first responded to a 911 call made after midnight where the caller stated there was a man standing outside holding a rifle and pointing it at his own home.
Rajan's family said he called a friend and said he believed an intruder was in his home.
As officers were on their way to the scene, the caller told 911 dispatchers that the man, identified as Rajan, fired into his own home.
Officer Daniel Sanchez and Officer Stephen Markert arrived at 12:33 a.m. in separate police vehicles. Sanchez saw Rajan and gave him a verbal command to drop the gun, APD said. Immediately after giving the command, police said Sanchez fired his department-approved firearm at Rajan, prompting him to fall to the ground.
Police said Markert gave Rajan a verbal command to show his hands but did not receive a response. Officer Luis Brito then arrived at the scene and all three approached Rajan on the front porch and began life-saving measures.
Rajan was taken to the hospital a few minutes later, where he died from his injuries.
No one else was hurt in the incident. Police did not find anyone inside the home.
Body camera video from the incident shows Sanchez firing at Rajan multiple times after giving the command to drop the gun. Ring doorbell video from the home showed Rajan pointing a rifle into the home and firing as police arrived at the scene.
Parts of the video from that night have been redacted as the investigation continues.
As per APD protocol, Sanchez was placed on administrative leave.
Pushing for reform
In the weeks since, Rajan's brother, Johann Moonesinghe, said life has been very hard.
"I took off work for the first time," said Johann, who co-founded the finance and technology app "inKind" with Rajan. “It’s just been really, really hard. Nobody would’ve ever expected this, and I think it’s been even more difficult because it’s been a fight with police to get answers, to figure out what’s going on.”
Johann said he, his parents and other brother are devastated. He claimed Austin police initially told the family the individual killed outside Rajan's home was a Caucasian man, giving the family a false hope that Rajan could still be alive. Austin police confirmed two days later that it was, in fact, Rajan who died. Johann also said Austin police took Raj's phone, which contains photos his family cherish, and they are afraid they will not get it back. He said it's been a turbulent experience with APD from the beginning.
But despite his sadness, Johann said he is turning his grief into action.
"Anybody can just watch the Ring camera and watch the bodycam and see what happened," Johann said, adding he feels the responding police officers are in the wrong for what happened that night.
In December, Johann formed the "Rajan Foundation." Through this, and with the help of companies and businesses that have already pledged top-dollar funds to the foundation, Johann intends to invest millions of dollars into police reform.
Ideas for this range from investing in non-lethal policing tools and working with city leaders and police departments on implicit bias training to eliminate discriminatory behavior. Johann said he'll even go so far as putting up billboards warning other entrepreneurs like himself and Rajan to stay out of Austin for their own safety.
“There are a lot of victims in our position out there that I’m sure have gone through this and they haven’t had the resources we have," Johann said.
Johann told KVUE the billboards would be a last resort if it came to be that the City will not work with him on creating police and policy change.
"We’ll do whatever it takes to get our voice heard," Johann said. "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.'"
Johann called his brother kind and selfless. He said he was the last one to eat at dinner to make sure everyone had enough to eat and that he once gave a homeless man a Lakers jersey because he needed a shirt.
"I can't guarantee something like this won't happen again, but even if we save one or two lives because of our actions, Raj would be happy. Raj would be OK dying if it meant someone else gets to live," Johann said. "Literally, whatever it takes – I'll spend every dollar I have, every breath that I have, every minute that I have to make sure there's justice for Raj and to make sure this doesn't happen to another family."
KVUE reached out to APD for an update regarding the case. Austin police said:
"It’s still an active investigation. The department respects the investigation and court process and will not make any further comments at this time."