Officers should be held accountable in Kawaski Trawick case

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

More than four years after the fatal police shooting of an out gay man, Kawaski Trawick, there continues to be a glaring lack of accountability — especially given the shocking nature of a case in which cops entered a man’s home without his permission and killed him in a matter of minutes. 

It was in April of 2019 when Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis entered Trawick’s apartment on a night when he may have been experiencing distress. Trawick was holding a knife while cooking in his kitchen and he kept asking the officers why they were in his home. They ignored Trawick’s questions, instead demanding that he drop the knife, according to police body camera footage. Davis tased him and subsequently shot him to death after he stood up.

The case sparked outrage in the LGBTQ community and led to countless demonstrations calling for justice — and citywide officials such as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams have echoed those calls. 

“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 speaker said on Sept. 26.

Kawaski Trawick lived at Hill House in the Bronx.
Kawaski Trawick lived at Hill House in the Bronx.Facebook/Kawaski Trawick

But the timeline in the aftermath of the shooting reflects a pattern of elusiveness to accountability. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said the case did not warrant criminal prosecution, but conceded that it called for a review of procedures and training. An initial internal probe into the case resulted in no punishment

And even as the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) substantiated misconduct charges and recommended firing the officers, The City reported that deputy commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado — an NYPD official overseeing a disciplinary trial involving the two officers — recommended against punishing the cops because of a technicality, saying the CCRB failed to file charges within a specified window of time. 

At the same time, officials accused the NYPD of slow-footing the investigation, effectively delaying the CCRB until it was too late.

There is also reason for concern about bias after Maldonado laced the recommendation with unnecessary language that blamed the CCRB’s delays for having allegedly “hijacked” the disciplinary trial, which she said was “distorted… into a quasi-criminal proceeding…”

The recommendation is not the final call on the officers’ fate — it is up to the mayor — and Trawick’s family has long called for the officers to be fired.

During a June interview with Gay City News, Mayor Eric Adams was asked what would happen to the officers in the case. He pointed to the disciplinary trial and said he did not want to interfere in that process, but said “the police commissioner will make the ultimate decision.” 

He also said at the time that he was “not going to tolerate misconduct on this specific issue.”

Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban should bring accountability to the case by punishing the officers and sending an important message to the city: That such conduct will not be condoned in a police department where officers purport to live by the motto of “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect.”