No punishment for cops in Kawaski Trawick case, NYPD says

Kawaski Trawick, a gay man, was shot to death by police in his Bronx home in 2019.
Kawaski Trawick, a gay man, was shot to death by police in his Bronx home in 2019.
Facebook/Kawaski Trawick

The two NYPD officers involved in the 2019 shooting death of out gay 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick will not face punishment, the NYPD announced on April 12, drawing renewed criticism from the Trawick family after they spent years demanding justice and calling for the cops to be booted from the force.

“Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban has determined that two NYPD officers involved in the fatal shooting of Kawaski Trawick in April 2019 acted within the law for their actions leading up to the 32-year-old man’s tragic death,” the NYPD said in a statement. The NYPD’s press statement was issued just minutes before 5 p.m. on a Friday.

The announcement came nearly five years to the day after Trawick died on April 14 of 2019 on a night when he may have been experiencing distress at his home at Hill Houses, a supportive living environment at 1616 Grand Avenue in the Bronx. He called 911, saying he was locked out of his apartment and that there was a fire. FDNY responders who arrived on the scene did not discover a fire, though the building superintendent and a security guard called police to say Trawick was bothering neighbors. 

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

The officers in the case, Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, entered Trawick’s home without obtaining his permission. He had a knife in his hand because he was cooking, and when officers kept ordering him to drop it, he responded by repeatedly asking why they were in his home. Officer Thompson subsequently tased Trawick, holstered his gun, and entered the apartment, at which point Trawick rose from the ground and screamed. Since Thompson already threw his taser away by that point, he used his gun to shoot Trawick four times. 

Trawick’s body remained on the ground for minutes before medical assistance arrived. When more officers arrived on the scene, one was later heard describing Trawick as “just a perp.”

The NYPD, which announced the decision two days after advocates gathered at City Hall to reiterate calls to fire the officers in the case, pointed to several developments to support their conclusion, including Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s decision to avoid bringing charges against the officers in November of 2020.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), however, substantiated multiple charges against both officers, including for use of force and for failing to render aid to Trawick. A much-anticipated disciplinary trial was held last year to determine whether the officers would face punishment — including the possibility of termination — but Trawick’s family and advocates were very critical of the NYPD’s handling of the case and the trial, which ultimately did not culminate in any punishment for the officers. The case was also hampered by delays that advocates said amounted to deliberate attempts to avoid accountability.

“In September 2023, following a trial prosecuted by the CCRB, the judge overseeing the proceedings found that the officers had not engaged in criminal conduct,” Caban said. “The police commissioner has likewise concluded that no crime was committed by the officers. Since the events in question, the NYPD has entered into a new memorandum of understanding with the CCRB, obligating the department to provide all future body-worn camera footage and documentation related to FID cases within 90 days of CCRB’s request.”

Trawick’s parents, Ellen and Rickie Trawick, traveled back and forth from their home in Georgia to New York City to attend the disciplinary trial. The Trawick family repeatedly asked for a meeting with the mayor before announcing a decision, but that never came to fruition.

“Mayor Adams should be ashamed of himself, as a father and as a Black man,” Ellen Trawick said in a written statement after the NYPD announced the officers would not be punished. “Not firing the police who murdered my son in 112 seconds in his home is disgraceful and the fact that Adams didn’t even let my family know of the decision before making it public is the height of disrespect. Finding out from press late on a Friday, on the weekend that my family is mourning the 5 years since Kawaski was murdered, is unimaginably painful. Thompson and Davis broke into my son’s home and murdered him within seconds, without even attempting to administer aid. They should have already been fired but Mayor Adams and the NYPD don’t seem to care about protecting New Yorkers from cops who kill. The utter disregard they have for our son’s memory, to make this decision on the five-year anniversary of his death is disgusting and shameful.”

Rickie Trawick and Ellen Trawick, the parents of Kawaski Trawick, standing outside NYPD headquarters on April 24, 2023.
Rickie Trawick and Ellen Trawick, the parents of Kawaski Trawick, standing outside NYPD headquarters on April 24, 2023.Matt Tracy

In an interview with Gay City News last year, Mayor Adams said he would “not have any problem meeting and sitting down with the family” — but only after the decision was made on the fate of the officers.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has demanded justice in the case since the beginning and stood with Trawick’s parents at countless press conferences, said the family waited five years “only to be denied any semblance of justice.”

“This is a shameful decision stemming from a cynical system and strategy across multiple mayors and commissioners to shield law enforcement from accountability,” Williams said. “Delaying this case for years and blaming that delay on ultimate inaction has been an attempt to deliberately sabotage the process and call it unfortunate. It’s a Trumpian tactic of delaying justice in order to deny it, and it’s a sign of the city’s unwillingness to allow for basic accountability.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks at a press conference in support of Trawick's family on April 12, 2023.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks at a press conference in support of Trawick’s family on April 12, 2023 — one year to the day before the NYPD announced a decision in the case.Matt Tracy

The news also prompted criticism from City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who has also stood with Trawick’s family and called out the NYPD over the handling of the case. She said the NYPD engaged in “significant obstruction.”

“The failure to take any disciplinary action against the NYPD officers who killed Kawaski Trawick is incredibly disturbing and sends the message that our current system is unable to hold officers accountable for the most serious misconduct which takes the life of a New Yorker,” the speaker said.

Loyda Colon, who is the executive director of Justice Committee and has been a leading advocate on behalf of the family, described the decision as “monstrous” and said the NYPD is worse under Mayor Adams than it was under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

“The NYPD announcement is wildly misleading — they’re falsely claiming that no crime was committed so the cops are trying to rely on technicalities when we all saw the video and both Davis and Thompson committed fireable offenses by the standards of the NYPD’s own patrol guide,” Colon said. “Herbert Davis broke the chain on Kawaski’s door, Thompson and Davis illegally entered, Thompson tased and shot Kawaski in 112 seconds and then neither cop made any attempt to save Kawaski’s life…”