Four years later, Kawaski Trawick’s family demands accountability at NYPD HQ

Kawaski Trawick's mother, Ellen Trawick (left), with the family's attorney, Royce Russell (right), at NYPD headquarters on April 12.
Kawaski Trawick’s mother, Ellen Trawick (left), with the family’s attorney, Royce Russell (right), at NYPD headquarters on April 12.
Dean Moses

Rickie Trawick, the father of the late Kawaski Trawick, stood in front of NYPD headquarters on April 12 and pointed to a sign with the names of the police officers who killed his son.

“I want them fired,” he said. “New York City is not safe with these two officers.”

Rickie and Ellen Trawick were standing together as part of a rally to demand justice and accountability nearly four years to the day when they learned that their 32-year-old son, an out gay man, was shot to death by police officers who entered his home without his permission.

The officers in the case, Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, are set to begin their disciplinary trial on April 24 after the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated allegations of abuse of authority and use of force against both officers and issued a recommendation that Thompson be fired.

“My husband and I are traveling back and forth from Georgia to New York to see to it that these two officers are fired,” Ellen Trawick said. “We need Mayor Adams and Commissioner Sewell to fire these two officers and be held accountable for murdering kawaski.”

Rickie and Ellen Trawick.
Rickie and Ellen Trawick.Dean Moses

Body camera video footage from the deadly 2019 incident — which took place on April 14 — showed the police officers arriving at Trawick’s home as he was cooking dinner at his apartment within a supportive living environment at 1616 Grand Avenue in the Bronx. Trawick appeared to be in distress that evening, as the building superintendent and a security guard called police and accused Trawick of annoying neighbors. 

Separately, Trawick called 911 to complain of a fire and said he was locked out of his apartment — even though firefighters who responded to the call did not discover a fire. Firefighters let him back into his apartment.

Shortly after, Trawick received a visit from Thompson and Davis — who entered Trawick’s home without receiving permission. Trawick, who was holding a serrated knife as he cooked, asked the cops why they were in his home. Instead of responding to the question, the officers directed Trawick to drop his knife. 

Trawick shut off a radio and repeated his question to the officers about why they were in his home. Thompson then stepped in to tase Trawick and subsequently holstered his gun, tossed his taser, and took another step into the apartment. Trawick, after falling down, yelled out and climbed up again, prompting Thompson to shoot him four times — including one shot to the heart.

In the aftermath of the incident, body camera footage revealed that other members of the NYPD who attended to the case went on to describe Trawick as “just a perp.”

Advocates stand up for the late Kawaski Trawick on April 12.
Advocates stand up for the late Kawaski Trawick on April 12.Dean Moses

“Kawaski came to New York to fulfill his dream of becoming a dancer,” Ellen Trawick said. “But instead, Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis took him away from us. Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis took Kawaski’s life in less than two minutes.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who emerged early on as the most visible and active elected official supporting Trawick’s family, joined advocates at 1 Police Plaza and echoed the calls for accountability. But he also highlighted an apparent difference between the response by the NYPD and FDNY.

“People often bring up the knife,” Williams said, referring to the knife Trawick was holding when officers entered his home. “Kawaski had a knife in the hallway when the FDNY approached him and let him in. They didn’t feel threatened; they didn’t kill him.”

Williams added: “When he had a knife in his kitchen, another agency busted in the door and shot him dead. Two different agencies; two totally different results.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has been a strong supporter of the Trawick family in their quest for accountability.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, speaking here at the rally, has been a strong supporter of the Trawick family in their quest for accountability.Matt Tracy

The family’s attorney, Royce Russell, joined The Trawick family and the Justice Committee, a grassroots organization that combats police violence and racism in New York City, at a pre-trial meeting earlier in the day. At the rally, Russell called for swift action and denounced the delays in a case that has now spanned across multiple mayoral administrations over the course of four years.

“Does it take this long to realize these officers arent fit to be on the force?” he asked. “I wear glasses, but how many eyes do I need? How many eyes do you need when you see what happened on tape? Does it take a subpoena and months and years in court for the truth to come out to the community?”

While the trial will begin on April 24, there will be a two-week break because an officer who is testifying will be on vacation, according to advocates. The trial will resume on May 11.

Other elected officials in attendance at the April 12 rally included City Councilmembers Lincoln Restler of Brooklyn and Pierina Sanchez of the Bronx, as well as State Senator Julia Salazar of Brooklyn. Several organizations showed support for the family, as well, including the NYC Anti-Violence Project, Housing Works, VOCAL-NY, Make the Road NY, Communities United for Police Reform, and the Audre Lorde Project.

The late Kawaski Trawick.
The late Kawaski Trawick.Facebook/Kawaski Trawick