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Austin police officer indicted for fatally shooting tech entrepreneur Raj Moonesinghe in 2022

A parked Austin Police SUV
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
Travis County District Attorney José Garza confirmed the indictment Wednesday afternoon.

A Travis County grand jury indicted an Austin police officer for fatally shooting a South Austin man while on duty last year.

Daniel Sanchez was indicted on a count of deadly conduct for killing 33-year-old Raj Moonesinghe in November 2022. Moonesinghe was carrying a long gun when Sanchez shot him outside his home near the intersection of Oltorf and South First streets. Sanchez has been suspended since the incident.

Moonesinghe's family has alleged that there was a burglar in his home and he was defending himself. They say footage from his Ring doorbell camera shows Sanchez asked him to drop his weapon only after he shot the tech entrepreneur multiple times. Moonesinghe fired two shots into his home. After that, footage from a Ring camera shows Sanchez fired at Moonesinghe.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza confirmed the indictment Wednesday afternoon after it was initially reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Both the Austin Police Department and Sanchez's attorney, Brad Heilman, addressed the indictment Wednesday morning. In a statement, Heilman said his client was operating within APD's training guidelines, adding that the charge is part of a campaign by Travis County District Attorney José Garza to unfairly prosecute police officers.

"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," he said.

Garza has secured more than two dozen indictments against officers since he took office in 2021. He is running for reelection on a platform to prosecute police misconduct, as he did during his 2020 campaign.

Garza's office unsuccessfully tried a murder case against another APD officer earlier this year. Christopher Taylor was charged with murder for fatally shooting Mike Ramos in 2020, but the case ended in a mistrial. Taylor, who faces another murder charge stemming from a 2019 on-duty killing, will be back in court next year.

Garza's office dropped charges this month against 17 officers who were accused of assault during the racial justice protests in 2020. That decision was made in concert with Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, who is trying to reach a longterm labor contract with the police union, the Austin Police Association. APA walked away from those negotiations last year. The fraught relationship between the union, City Hall and the DA's office has also complicated the city's efforts to implement the voter-approved Austin Police Oversight Act.

APA President Michael Bullock told KUT Wednesday another officer indictment could erode some of the goodwill during contract negotiations.

"With what seems to be going on, we're just back to square one," he said. "I don't think the DA is making an attempt to really work with us on anything that I have seen. I certainly haven't had any communication with him."

In a statement, Garza said his office "takes the work of presenting all facts and evidence to a grand jury very seriously" and that grand jurors independently decided Sanchez's conduct was "unlawful" after they were presented with evidence.

APD's interim Chief Robin Henderson said the department would support Sanchez as the case moves forward.

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

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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