Kawaski Trawick’s family awaits answers after NYPD disciplinary trial

Kawaski Trawick's parents, Rickie and Ellen Trawick, at NYPD headquarters on April 12.
Kawaski Trawick’s parents, Rickie and Ellen Trawick, at NYPD headquarters on April 12.
Dean Moses

The disciplinary trial for the two cops involved in the 2019 police shooting of an out gay man, Kawaski Trawick, ended on May 12 against the backdrop of criticism from Trawick’s family and multiple members of the City Council — including the City Council speaker — about the NYPD’s handling of the case and the trial. 

Days later, on March 15, Trawick’s parents delivered a letter to Mayor Eric Adams urging the administration to fire Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, who were the cops involved in the two-minute fatal encounter with Trawick at his apartment at 1616 Grand Avenue in the Bronx. The officers, responding to a 911 call, entered Trawick’s home without his permission as he was cooking and repeatedly told him to drop a knife. He asked the officers why they were in his home, but the officers did not respond to the question, and Thompson eventually tased Trawick, who recovered and stood up. Thompson — who dropped his taser — then fatally shot Trawick, according to body camera footage of the incident released to the public.

A determination on the fate of the officers is forthcoming, but the timetable is not clear. The trial will determine whether they will be punished or fired after the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) — an oversight agency — substantiated multiple charges against them, including for use of force and for failing to render aid to Trawick. NYPD Judge Rosemarie Maldonado would be the one to provide recommendations to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

When asked to comment, the NYPD would only say that “the disciplinary process remains ongoing.”

Developments in the case were moving rapidly on May 12 as the parties returned to NYPD headquarters for the second consecutive and final day of the trial, which had just started up again after a weeks-long break. Maldonado was facing criticism after the CCRB said she blocked oral closing arguments in the case against the officers on May 11.

The City Council’s LGBTQIA+, Black, Latino and Asian, and Progressive Caucuses issued a joint statement on the morning of May 12 blasting the NYPD and describing the change to closing arguments as “the latest and most outrageous example yet in a clear pattern of decisions that gives the appearance of a cover-up, a rigged verdict, and obstruction of justice.” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called on Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD to reverse the decision. 

By the afternoon of May 12, the closing arguments were ultimately allowed to proceed in the usual format, according to the Justice Committee, which is supporting Trawick’s family.

Kawaski Trawick was fatally shot by police in his apartment in 2019.
Kawaski Trawick was fatally shot by police in his apartment in 2019.Facebook/Kawaski Trawick

At the same time, a fresh report by ProPublica revealed further information about the NYPD’s internal investigation into the police officers who were involved in Trawick’s case. The internal probe, conducted by the NYPD’s Force Investigation Division, had concluded that “no wrongdoing was found” after the department reviewed the turn of events on the night when the officers shot and killed Trawick. The officers were also cleared of criminal charges by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who recommended “a thoughtful review of police procedures and training techniques” but said “we do not find that the facts warrant a criminal prosecution.”

The ProPublica report, however, noted that investigators asked Officer Herbert Davis if he had any conversation with his partner, to which Davis answered “no.” While it did not appear to be the case that they had an actual conversation, video footage of the incident shows Davis warning Brendan Thompson against using his taser by repeatedly saying “don’t, don’t, don’t.” Thompson used it nonetheless and subsequently used his gun to fatally shoot Trawick. The report further sheds light on what ProPublica described as “false and misleading” statements by the officers in the interview process. Plus, NYPD investigators failed to ask the officers about video footage of the case, the report stated.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams responded to the ProPublica report by describing it as “very troubling, only adding to the volume of evidence for why the officers who killed him must be held accountable.”

The letter delivered to the mayor by Trawick’s parents urged the administration to move expeditiously to terminate the officers.

“We know you weren’t mayor when our son was killed, but you’re the mayor now and we need you to act quickly and decisively to fire Thompson and Davis to make clear that the life of our Black, gay son mattered and to ensure the safety of New Yorkers,” Trawick’s parents wrote.