For years, Austin has stood out as an evolving technology hub where start-ups, large corporations and investors flock to establish a presence.
But as 2022 draws to a close, the Texas capital is in the news for an entirely different and tragic reason. The sudden death of a startup founder at the hands of police officers.
On November 15, inKind co-founder Rajan “Raj” Moonesinghe was shot dead outside his home in south Austin. His family and colleagues say it was a pointless accident that could have been avoided.
According to his brother Johann, the 33-year-old returned from a two-week trip to find something strange at home. The wealthy neighborhood has recently been targeted by criminals.One homeowner felt unsafe and moved out after being robbed.The new owner is aggressive and he is available 24 hours a day. guards were hired to guard the front of the house.
A few weeks ago, Moonesinghe had bought an assault rifle to protect himself in case a burglar tried to break into his home. In what sadly turned out to be a prophetic warning, his neighbor and inKind COO El Khattary warned:A brown guy with a big gun doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. ”
It turns out he had reason to worry.
Mounesingha had previously spoken to a neighbor across the street and reportedly expressed concern that someone might be in his house, and pulled out a rifle while looking around his belongings. Leaving the front door open, Musinge yelled for anyone in the house to get out. He also shot the rifle home. A neighborhood security guard called his 9-1-1.
According to Moonesinghe’s brother, Ring camera footage showed police arriving at his brother’s property without sirens or lights, and one of the officers shot Raj dead in the back.
“Police didn’t announce themselves or give them time to put down their guns,” Johan told TechCrunch. (A video of the incident can be viewed here. Warning: May be inappropriate for some viewers).
Officers said they gave Raj life-saving measures before he was finally pronounced dead at a local hospital.
However, it took two days for Raj’s family to find out what had happened to him. Police initially held a press conference to say a “white man” had been shot, but gave no further details.
“We were very confused,” said Johann. “We knew the police were there, but we couldn’t catch Raj. At first we thought it was him, but we thought it wasn’t. I didn’t know what to think.”
The incident occurred at 12:30 am on Tuesday, November 15th. However, the Moonesinghe family claims they were not notified by police of Raj’s death until the evening of Thursday, November 17.
“Raj was amazing and truly phenomenal. He went all out to help others,” Johan told TechCrunch. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family. The hardest thing for me is that it could have been avoided.”
“We are lucky to have such a strong family, incredible friends, and extremely supportive people around us,” he continued. “ThatLosing a loved one is not only painful,It’s doubly and thrice hard because of the way the police treat me. ”
TechCrunch contacted the Austin Police Department (APD) and was referred. December 1st press release That The department continued to investigate the shooting.
At the beginning of the release, Raj was described as a deceased Middle Eastern man. In the text of the release, APD said the 9-1-1 caller described the gun-toting man as “a white man in a gray robe and dark pants.”
In that release, police identified Officer Daniel Sanchez as the person who shot Raj dead. Sanchez is reportedly on administrative leave pending an investigation by the department. In a statement, APD said he would conduct two simultaneous investigations into the incident. He is a criminal investigation conducted by the APD Division of Special Investigations in conjunction with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, and he is an administrative investigation conducted by the APD Department of Internal Affairs. Surveillance from the police surveillance station.
I moved to Austin about 5 years ago and this year I moved to inKind. Leasing 22,000 square feet of office space It was Facebook’s first office in Austin. According to Johann, business is going well. Launched in 2016, the startup buys a large amount of food and beverage credits upfront to fund restaurants, and in the past year has seen $27 million in growth from his equity and $130 million in his debt and has approximately 74 employees. Johann said his run rate is $48 million.
“What is really sad is that startups are very hard and Raj has worked hard for years and years. I am not in.
Johann told TechCrunch that he feels “guilty” over the decision to move the startup he helped co-found with his brothers Andrew Harris and Miles Matthias from Washington DC to Austin several years ago. Johann, an early investor in Uber and Twilio, said he hopes to move to a tax-free state. Seattle and Miami were also considered.
“Obviously the shooting wasn’t my fault,” Johann told TechCrunch. “But I don’t think this happened anywhere else. I’m gay, brown, grew up in LA, and lived in DC for a long time. The only time I experienced racism was when I moved to Austin. The pair were born in Los Angeles, although the brothers’ family hails from Sri Lanka.
Khattaary told TechCrunch that the city’s lack of diversity is “strange” given its so-called progressive reputation, and that police treatment of people of color is “disappointing.” At the Black Lives Matter protest, 19 police officers were accused of seriously injuring protesters. Earlier this year, police officers were charged with excessive use of force.
“Clearly there’s something about Austin and Black Lives Matter in 2020, and a lot of it is highlighted,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s a national problem, but Austin definitely has more than its fair share. In this case thisFisher recognized him [Raj] As a big threat, didn’t give him a chance. ”
Johann said the contrast between a city’s progressive and mostly “very hospitable” population and incidents like this can be difficult for outsiders to understand.
“I don’t think there’s outright racism. It’s more of an unconscious prejudice where people make judgments about others in the blink of an eye,” he added. Had Raj been white, he probably wouldn’t have been killed.”
Austin’s lack of diversity is nothing new. As TechCrunch reported in March, For example, percentage of black residents Decreasing steadily As time passes estimated 7% Much of Austin’s neighborhood is similar to that found in Silicon Valley, with more whites and Asians and far fewer Hispanics and blacks.
Johan doesn’t want his brother’s death to be in vain. He says he “doesn’t feel safe” in Austin now and says it’s hard to consider asking other people to move here, but also that they can’t just be kind enough to move. I know.
Instead, he wants to help transform Austin into “a safe place for everyone.”
“I hope the Austin Police can start a dialogue and give us some answers and explain what they are going to change so that this doesn’t happen again,” Johan said. Told.
He also raised money to specifically invest in companies that could help prevent what happened to Raj from happening to others through data, improved security cameras and other technologies. I want to
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