Before the start of a Zoom call with the Bronx district attorney’s staff Wednesday, in the sitting room of the house Kawaski Trawick grew up in Milledgeville, Ga., his mother, father, sisters, and grandmother formed a circle and prayed for the strength to watch a video of him being shot to death.
Trawick’s entire interaction with police in The Bronx on April 14, 2019, lasted only a few minutes before an officer fired four shots, killing him.
His mother, Ellen Trawick, says the video told a different story than the version police offered last year.
“The way they wrote it up is like he was a threat to them, and that was not true,” she told THE CITY in a phone interview.
“NYPD went into Kawaski’s home and murdered him,” she added.
He Made the 911 Call
Trawick had himself called 911 after getting locked out of his Morris Heights apartment with food on the stove, according to the FDNY. Firefighters came and helped break his door open, in an otherwise uneventful interchange, fire officials have said.
But only minutes later, police arrived, responding to calls from the superintendent and a security guard saying Trawick had been harassing neighbors at the city-funded supportive housing building.
The two cops on the scene, Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis, found him wielding a wooden stick and a serrated knife, according to the NYPD.
After the officers talked with Trawick for less than two minutes, they tased him, police said. He fell and, as the officers moved to arrest him, police allege he got up, threatened them and charged.
Thompson fired his gun four times, hitting Trawick twice, killing him.
Others who had previously seen the body camera footage, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, questioned why Thompson fired his gun when police could have stepped into the hallway or otherwise de-escalated the situation.
Ellen Trawick said her son was cooking at the time, explaining the knife in his hand.
“I could just see the frustration of him and asking the police officers, ‘Why are y’all in my home? Why are you here?’” she said. “And they never answered. They never answered him.”
Thompson first shot Trawick with a Taser and then put the Taser down, multiple viewers of the footage told THE CITY. The officer then fired his gun at Trawick, they said.
Both officers present had been trained in crisis intervention at the time of the shooting, according to the NYPD.
The Trawick family wants all of the officers involved to at least be fired.
“They are not fit for duty for the New York Police Department,” Ellen Trawick said.
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced no criminal charges would be brought in the case.
“Although we do not find that the facts warrant a criminal prosecution, this event does demand a thoughtful review of police procedures and training techniques,” Bronx DA Darcel Clark, who was not on the call with the family, said in a statement.
State Attorney General Letitia James’ office will also not take on the case, citing an 2015 executive order that appoints the AG special prosecutor in police killings of unarmed civilians and instances in which “there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death.” James’ office considers Trawick to have been armed.
The NYPD said the case will be presented to the first deputy commissioner’s Use of Force Review Board on Sept. 28, “where the facts and circumstances of the case will be reviewed by the board for a recommendation to the police commissioner regarding whether the actions of the officers were within departmental guidelines.”
A Family’s Prayer
Trawick had moved to New York from Georgia in 2016 to pursue a dance career, his family said.
“You could see his happiness, you could see his smile through his dance,” his mother said. “You could see his drive.”
She got through most of the police body camera video, but her son’s final pleas were too much to watch.
“I couldn’t stand to see him in distress, and, you know, crying and asking, ‘Why did you shoot me?’” she said. “I walked away.”
After the call, the family joined hands again and prayed for justice, she said.