Public Advocate Jumaane Williams viewed NYPD body camera footage of the fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding Bronx man in his apartment and came away with one big question: Why couldn’t cops “just close the door and regroup?”
In an interview with THE CITY, Williams described the video showing the April 14 death of Kawaski Trawick following a series of 911 calls that variously brought firefighters and police to the Morris Heights supportive housing facility that Palm Sunday night.
Williams had vowed to seek the footage after THE CITY reported the timeline of events leading to the deadly encounter. On Wednesday, he shared what he saw and heard on unreleased videos and 911 calls that police played for him.
Trawick, 32, called the Fire Department after getting locked out of his fourth-floor apartment while he was cooking. Firefighters cut open his door and let him back in without incident.
Meanwhile, the superintendent and security guard at the Grand Avenue building called 911 to report Trawick was banging on doors, harassing neighbors. Two cops arrived, police said, to find Trawick in his apartment, clad in underwear, holding a knife and a stick.
After Trawick ignored police orders to drop the knife, saying he was cooking, the cops Tasered him. When he picked up the knife and charged, one cop fired four shots, two of which struck the dance aerobics instructor, police said.
Williams, who viewed the body-camera video, along with hallway surveillance footage, and listened to 911 calls, said he understood that the cops on the scene were “human beings making decisions.” But he questioned why the situation escalated to gunfire.
“He was contained in that apartment,” Williams said. “And so there was no one who was in particular danger. You could have actually just shut the door…
“I do feel like there was an opportunity to retreat and close the door and everybody would have been okay,” he said. “I do want to understand why that didn’t happen.”
A police official noted that Trawick’s door wasn’t closing properly after firefighters had pried it open.
‘Where Was the Ball Dropped?’
Williams said he believed someone should have flagged Trawick as what police call an “EDP” — an emotionally disturbed person. Williams wonders if that would have spurred a different response from the cops who arrived at Hill House, a facility run by a city-contracted nonprofit group.
The security guard who called 911 told the operator Trawick had been “losing his mind all day,” Williams revealed, adding that she reiterated the point multiple times.
“I think there was enough information in that conversation with the security guard to the 911 operator that somebody should have classified it as an EDP,” Williams said.
“I don’t know if the officers had that information or they didn’t. And again, if they didn’t, why not? Where was the ball dropped?”
Williams referenced the police killing of Saheed Vassell in Brooklyn in April, 2018 as a recent example of a communication breakdown between 911 and police.
“This is the second time that I’ve heard things said to 911 operators that were not given to the dispatcher and then not given to the officers responding,” he said.
Williams said police told him that the 911 calls describing threatening behavior made the incident a “criminal investigation,” forcing cops to “engage” with Trawick.
“I always try to think of what human beings are doing and knowing in the situation,” Williams said. “I just try to always remember that these are human beings making decisions, and everybody wants to go home.”
Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.