The city’s primary police watchdog has substantiated misconduct charges against two cops in the fatal shooting of a Bronx man inside his apartment two years ago.
Police Officer Brendan Thompson shot Kawaski Trawick, 32, once in the right upper chest and once in the left part of his back during a deadly 1 minute, 52 second encounter in his Morris Heights home on April 14, 2019 — an incident captured on police body camera footage.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board decision issued Wednesday called for the firing of Thompson and his more experienced partner, Officer Herbert Davis, both of whom were cleared of wrongdoing by the NYPD and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark. Now any disciplinary action against the duo is up to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
The CCRB determined Thompson improperly used his Taser and gun and failed to seek medical help right away, according to a source familiar with the case.
Davis, a 16-year NYPD veteran, urged him not to shoot, the body-cam video shows. Still, the CCRB said Davis was also guilty of misconduct because he had improperly gone inside Trawick’s apartment in a supportive housing complex and then failed to get the mortally wounded man medical attention.
The board voted against charging Davis with “wrongful threat of force,” according to the New York Post, which first reported on the charges, quoting anonymous sources.
Killed ‘in Cold Blood’
Trawick’s parents hailed the CCRB’s decision and urged Shea to fire both cops.
“We’ve watched the video of Kawaski’s killing over and over again and it’s clear that Thompson and Davis created a crisis that didn’t exist, escalated at every step and then killed our son in cold-blood — and they did this in 112 seconds,” said Ellen and Ricky Trawick in a joint statement.
The deadly incident began with Trawick getting locked out of his apartment at Hill House in The Bronx as he was cooking. He called 911 himself and the FDNY responded to let him into his apartment, busting the door’s lock.
Because Trawick had been knocking on neighbors’ doors to get help with being locked out, a separate call was made to cops complaining that a person with a history of mental health issues and drug addiction was walking the hallways with a knife and a stick. Thompson, who had been on the job for three years, and Davis responded.
The officers repeatedly knocked on his door and pushed their way inside after it opened a bit because of the broken lock, the video shows.
Trawick, who was standing near his stove with a serrated kitchen knife, asked the officers multiple times why they were in his home.
They ordered him to drop the knife, without giving him a reason, the video shows.
“I have a knife because I’m cooking,” the shirtless Trawick said.
“We ain’t gonna tase him,” David told Thompson, who shortly after did just that..
Moments after being tased, Trawick got back up screaming and was moving toward the cops when Thompson fired the fatal shots.
‘Reforms Are Not Enough’
Multiple police experts who viewed the video said the officers unnecessarily escalated the situation and then used excessive force, ProPublica reported in December 2020.
“This case is a lesson in how you don’t do one of these encounters,” Jonathan Smith, a former Justice Department official who supervised police abuse cases during the Obama administration, told ProPublica at the time. “They should teach it in the academy.”
Public advocate Jumaane Williams said the CCRB’s decision confirmed that there was wrongdoing despite the NYPD and Clark’s findings.
“I am glad that the CCRB saw past that and substantiated charges against both officers for their roles in his death,” he said in a statement.
The case amplifies the city’s need to replace cops with medical professionals on 911 calls dealing with mentally ill people, he added.
“Neither officer should have been responding to this incident at all,” he said. “Retraining and reforms are not enough — the officer who fired his gun had received crisis training just days prior. A system that treats mental health crises with law enforcement response is one that will only perpetuate policing injustices and deepen, not resolve, the compounding crises we face.”
Police reform advocates urged Shea to fire the officers.
“These substantiated charges make clear that officers Thompson and Davis should have never even entered his home in the first place,” said Ileana Mendez-Peñate, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform.
According to the CCRB, Shea has never fired a cop based on its recommendation.