NYPD official recommends no punishment for cops in Kawaski Trawick case

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

A deputy NYPD commissioner tasked with overseeing administrative trials has recommended against punishing the two police officers who were involved in the 2019 fatal police shooting of an out gay man, Kawaski Trawick, according to The City — and it all came down to a technicality.

Officers Brendan Thompson — who shot and killed Trawick — and Herbert Davis faced an administrative trial at NYPD headquarters earlier this year for their role in Trawick’s death on a night when he may have been experiencing distress at his apartment at Hill House, a supportive living environment in the Bronx. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which handles cases of police misconduct, substantiated multiple charges against the pair of cops, including for using force and failing to render aid to Trawick after the shooting.

Now, more than four months after the final hearing in the administrative trial, deputy commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado justified the recommendation by stating in a draft ruling from Sept. 20 that the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) failed to file misconduct charges against the two officers until the statute of limitations had passed, according to The City, which reported that the CCRB was nearly five months too late against the backdrop of delays by the NYPD. 

In fact, Maldonado asserted that the technicality essentially nullified any case against the officers’ conduct. 

“CCRB’s failure to preserve the statute of limitations hijacked this NYPD disciplinary trial and distorted it into a quasi-criminal proceeding where the evidentiary threshold focused on the Penal Law instead of Patrol Guide compliance,” Maldonado wrote, according to The City. “As such, whether Respondent Thompson’s actions violated the Department’s Force and EDP [Emotionally Disturbed Person] guidelines is moot because the charges were not served by the statutory deadline.”

Still, Maldonado noted in the report that the “trial record raises serious doubts as to whether Respondent Thompson followed Department guidelines during this incident,” according to The City.

Maldonado’s recommendation is not final, meaning NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban could still decide to punish the officers — but the draft report nonetheless represents a blow to advocates’ hopes for a resolution. When asked about Maldonado’s recommendation, an NYPD spokesperson told Gay City News “the disciplinary process remains ongoing.”

Advocates and Trawick’s family are insisting that the Police Department delayed the case on multiple occasions — including by refusing to release full video footage of the incident until a court ordered it to be released. It was nearly two years before the NYPD provided body camera footage, according to advocates.

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

Trawick’s death prompted four years of outrage from Trawick’s family as well as the local LGBTQ community. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced in 2020 that the officers would not face criminal charges, but the NYPD has faced mounting pressure to fire them.

“The anguish we have had to face since our son was murdered in his own home is unbearable, a weight no parent should ever have to hold,” Trawick’s mother, Ellen Trawick, said in a written statement. “And the only thing that makes the pain and suffering worse is experiencing the stunning disregard and power of the NYPD close up. It seems like every time we turn around there’s some new trick they’re pulling to block basic accountability and protect these cops who broke into his home and shot Kawaski in a matter of seconds.”

Thompson and Davis arrived at Trawick’s home after receiving a 911 call on the evening of April 24, but they proceeded to enter his apartment without permission. Trawick, holding a knife and a broomstick while cooking, demanded to know why the officers were in his home — but the officers ignored the question and ordered him to drop the knife.

Thompson subsequently tased Trawick, who recovered and stood up, at which point Thompson fatally shot Trawick. Later that night, other officers who responded to the case were on the scene when a sergeant asked who was hurt. Two unidentified officers responded, saying, “Nobody. Just a perp.”

Maldonado said in the report that “Trawick’s failure to comply with [the officers’] immediate and repeated orders to put down the knife raised the threat level and reasonably elevated the officers’ safety concerns.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has spent years demanding justice in the case and was one of the first to view video camera footage of the incident, criticized the recommendation, telling Gay City News the the NYPD has continued “to delay accountability at every turn” in the four-year fight for accountability across multiple mayoral administrations.

“Now, those delays are being blamed on the accountability board itself, and used to further deny justice,” Williams said on Sept. 27. “Regardless of this ruling, the reality is that no one can look at this case and not see wrongdoing by both officers, including by escalating the circumstances that led to the shooting and failing to adequately act to save Trawick’s life after the trigger was pulled. Both must be held accountable. As we continue work toward protecting and producing public safety, it is impossible to make progress without accountability for past injustices.”

“Ultimately,” Williams added, “the responsibility now rests with the mayor and commissioner to provide some semblance of justice, and show that this administration is truly different than previous ones.”

Maldonado’s recommendation also drew criticism from City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who has supported the Trawick family and hosted City Council oversight hearings in a bid to prevent the NYPD from delaying the case further.

“I am deeply disappointed in Deputy Commissioner Maldonado’s recommendation and the rationale behind it,” Speaker Adams said. “For several years, the Trawick family has waited for a shred of accountability for Kawaski’s killing. After delays and impediments by the NYPD to provide key evidence, those delays now being used as the reason to recommend no discipline is unjustifiable. Commissioner Caban can and must hold these officers accountable for misconduct – it’s what Kawaski’s family, New Yorkers, and officers who have not engaged in misconduct deserve from the NYPD.”

The Office of Mayor Eric Adams did not respond to a request for comment on Sept. 27. In an interview with Gay City News in June, Mayor Adams said “the police commissioner will make the ultimate decision” on the fate of the officers.

The CCRB did not respond to a request for comment on Sept. 27.