Texas police officer indicted in fatal shooting of man on his front porch

Dec 20, 2023, 12:27 PM | Updated: 4:08 pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An Austin, Texas, police officer has been indicted for deadly conduct in the fatal shooting of a man standing on his own front porch.

A grand jury indicted Austin police Officer Daniel Sanchez on Wednesday in Rajan Moonesinghe’s death.

Video and audio show Austin police officers arrived at Moonesinghe’s home in November 2022, yelled “drop your gun,” then fired at Moonesinghe, who was holding an AR-15-style weapon.

The Moonesignhe family in a statement Thursday thanked the local prosecutor but said the indictment is not enough to achieve justice.

“Raj was never a threat to the police — his gun was pointed at the ground,” the family wrote. “Considering these facts and the footage to prove it, we expect additional indictments to be brought against Officer Sanchez.”

Officers were responding to a 911 call requesting police and mental health support because a man was holding a long gun outside in the residential neighborhood. The caller, who was not identified in the recording, said the man had approached him earlier in the day to ask if he had noticed anything suspicious in the area.

Ring security camera footage released by police shows Moonesinghe had just fired two shots into his home and had been speaking in the direction of his house while pointing the gun inside, but it is not clear why.

Body camera footage released by police shows officers running to the porch and attempting life-saving measures after shooting Moonesinghe.

Officers checked Moonesinghe’s house and didn’t find anyone inside, police said.

Sanchez’s lawyer, Brad Heilman, said he is confident that the officer will be exonerated and slammed Travis County District Attorney José Garza, a progressive who ran on promises to hold police accountable in the Texas capital.

“The fact that Officer Sanchez was indicted for deadly conduct further exemplifies Jose Garza’s continued attack on Austin police officers for doing exactly what they are trained to keep the citizens of Austin safe from harm,” Heilman said. “It is no coincidence that gun violence and attacks on police officers in Austin are at the current level.”

Garza’s office oversaw indictments against more than 20 Austin police officers for tactics used during the 2020 protests that followed George Floyd’s killing. But the office dropped most of those charges last month, instead asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.

In the case against Sanchez, Garza in a statement said “an independent group of members of the Travis County community heard the evidence and law and decided that Officer Sanchez’s conduct was unlawful,” adding that his office takes the work of presenting evidence to grand juries seriously.

Sanchez is on paid administrative leave, per department policy, Austin Interim Chief of Police Robin Henderson said Thursday in a statement. She said police continue to support Sanchez as the legal process continues.

“Officer Sanchez was confronted with a subject who fired a rifle indiscriminately in a densely populated neighborhood,” Henderson said. “Officer Sanchez responded to that threat consistent with his training.”

The Moonesinghe family said police are attempting to “rewrite history” about the shooting, saying law enforcement’s description of Moonesinghe firing “indiscriminately” in the neighborhood is deceptive.

“As that footage from the police officer’s body cam and front door security camera shows, Raj fired two shots into his own home to protect it from an intruder,” the family wrote.

United States News

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Texas police officer indicted in fatal shooting of man on his front porch