For years, Austin has made headlines as a tech hub as startups, large companies and investors flock to establish a presence.
But in the year As 2022 closes, the Texas capital is in the news for a particularly tragic reason – the sudden death of a startup founder at the hands of a police officer.
In the year On November 15, inKind co-founder Rajan “Raj” Munsinghe was shot outside his South Austin home in what his family and colleagues say was a senseless accident that could have been avoided.
The 33-year-old returned from a two-week trip to find things out of place at home, his brother Johan said. The affluent neighborhood has recently become a target for criminals – after one homeowner was robbed, she left the house to the point of danger. The new owners have hired an active 24-hour security guard to guard the front of their home.
A few weeks ago, Munsinghe bought an assault rifle to protect himself if a burglar tried to break into his home. In an unfortunately prophetic warning, his neighbor and kindly COO El Khattary warned, “A brown man with a big gun doesn’t raise suspicion.
Turns out he had reason to worry.
Munsinghe had reportedly spoken to his neighbor across the street earlier and said he was concerned someone might be in the house, so he took the gun when he checked his property. Opening the front door, Munsinghe shouted for anyone inside the house to come out. He also fired his rifle into the house. The neighbor’s security guard called 911.
According to Mouninghe’s brother, ring camera footage shows police arriving at his brother’s property with no sirens or lights, and one of the officers fatally shot Raj.
“The police didn’t identify themselves or give him time to put the gun down,” Johan told TechCrunch.
Officials said they performed life-saving measures on Raj before he was eventually pronounced dead at a local hospital.
It was two days later that Raj’s family did not know what had happened to him. Police initially issued a press release saying that “a white man” had been shot, but did not provide details.
“We are very confused,” Johan said. “We knew the police were there, and we could not catch Raj. At first we thought it was him, and then we thought it wasn’t. They said they killed a white man who was shooting in the area. We didn’t know what to think.
The incident took place on Tuesday, November 15 at 12:30 am. But Mooninghe’s family say they were not informed of Raj’s death by the police until the evening of Thursday, November 17.
“Raj was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. He’s just out to help other people,” Johannes told TechCrunch. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family. The hardest thing for me is that it can be removed.
“We’re lucky to have such a strong family, incredible friends and the most supportive people around us,” he continued. “HeLosing a loved one is not only difficult, but also meIt’s doubly, treble hard because of the police treatment.
TechCrunch has been contacted by the Austin Police Department (APPD). December 1 press release he said. of The department continues to conduct firing.
At the top of the release, Raj is described as a dead Middle Eastern man. In the released body, A.P.D. The 911 caller described the man with the gun as “a white male, wearing a gray shirt and black pants.”
In that release, the police department identified Officer Daniel Sanchez as the man who killed Raj. Sanchez is reportedly on administrative leave pending a department investigation. In a statement, A.P.D. He said he will conduct two separate investigations into the incident – one by APD’s Special Investigations Unit in cooperation with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and an administrative investigation conducted by APD’s Internal Affairs Unit with oversight from the Bureau of Police Investigations.
After moving to Austin five years ago, this year inKind 22,000 square feet of office space was leased It was the first Facebook office in Austin. According to Johan, business is going well. In the year The startup, which launched in 2016 and finances restaurants by buying large amounts of food and beverage credit, raised $27 million in growth equity and $130 million in debt last year and has about 74 employees. It’s running at a run rate of $48 million, Johannes said.
“My biggest disappointment is that startups are very, very strong and Raj has worked hard for years and years. And now that the company is really on a rocket ship, he’s not here to have fun,” he added.
Johannes told TechCrunch that he “felt guilty” about the decision to move the startup he helped move from Washington, D.C., to Austin several years ago with his brother Andrew Harris, Matt Sata and Miles Mathias. Johan, an early investor in Uber and Twilio, had hoped to move to a tax-free state. Seattle and Miami were also considered.
“The shooting really wasn’t my fault,” Johannes told TechCrunch. But I don’t think this would happen anywhere else. I’m gay and brown, grew up in LA, and lived in DC for a long time only experiencing racism when I moved to Austin. The brothers’ family is from Sri Lanka, and the couple was born in Los Angeles.
Cattari told TechCrunch that he finds the city’s lack of diversity “surprising” given its so-called progressive reputation, and the police’s treatment of people of color as “deplorable.” For example, in During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, 19 officers were accused of seriously injuring protesters. Earlier this year, the officers were accused of using excessive force.
“Obviously, there’s something in Austin and Black Lives Matter in 2020 that’s going to highlight a lot,” he told TechCrunch. “This is a problem nationwide, but Austin certainly has more than its fair share. In this case, THe is theThe vicar understood [Raj] I don’t see it as a big threat and an opportunity.”
The difference between the city’s progressiveness and the mostly “welcoming” population and events like this can be hard for outsiders to understand, Johan said.
“I don’t think there is any overt racism. It’s an unconscious bias when people pass judgment on others in a split second,” he added. “And that’s very problematic. I believe if Raj was white he probably wouldn’t have been killed.
Austin’s lack of diversity is not a new problem. According to TechCrunch It was reported in March, The percentage of black residents, for example, It is constantly reduced Over time to approximately 7% In the year In 2020. Most of Austin’s neighborhoods resemble those seen in Silicon Valley, with mostly white and Asian residents and very few Hispanic and black people.
Johannes does not want his brother to die in vain. While he says he “doesn’t feel safe” in Austin right now and is having a hard time asking other people to move here, he knows they can’t just move to Kind.
Instead, he hopes to help transform Austin into a “safer place for everyone.”
“I’m hoping the Austin police can start the conversation, give us some answers and explain to us what’s different so that this doesn’t happen again,” Johan said.
He also wants to raise capital to invest, especially in companies that use data, improved security cameras and other technologies to help prevent what happened to Ray from happening to others.
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