Dozens of people gathered outside City Hall in lower Manhattan on Tuesday to demand justice for Kawaski Trawick, a 32-year-old Black gay man who was fatally shot by a New York City Police Department officer in 2019.
Hoisting signs bearing statements like “Who keeps us safe for real?,” “No more stolen lives,” and “We demand Eric Adams face our families,” protesters chanted while standing behind Ellen Trawick, Kawaski’s mother. She had taken time off work and flown out from Georgia for the rally, as she has done multiple times over the past four years while calling for NYPD officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis to face consequences for the killing, and for Mayor Eric Adams to meet with her family.
“Kawaski came here to New York in 2019 to pursue a dream,” she said at the rally. “He wanted to dance. But instead, Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis took his life.”
On April 15, 2019, Trawick called 911 after being locked out of his Bronx apartment. Several other 911 calls were made from the apartment building that night, including one from the building’s security guard claiming that Trawick was “harassing” neighbors, according to a ProPublica investigation. Firefighters arrived first, let Trawick back into his apartment, then left. Thompson and Davis arrived minutes after Trawick re-entered his apartment.
Within 112 seconds, the officers opened his door from the hallway, saw that Trawick was holding a bread knife near his stove, then tased and shot him during a verbal altercation in which the officers failed to de-escalate the situation, as the ProPublica report found. At first, Trawick asked the officers why they were in his home, and said he was holding a knife because he was cooking, but Thompson proceeded to fire his Taser during the ensuing exchange, even though Davis can be heard on video footage discouraging him from doing so, as ProPublica noted. Upon being tased, Trawick charged at the officers. Davis, the more experienced officer, tried to stop Thompson from firing his gun, but Thompson shot Trawick four times, killing him almost instantly.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which addresses complaints against the NYPD, found both Thompson and Davis guilty of misconduct in June 2021. The Board then recommended that both officers be fired, according to local publication The City. A disciplinary trial was held in April of this year, nearly two years after the CCRB’s conclusion, but only after the Police Benevolent Association of New York, the NYPD’s union, attempted to stop the trial altogether in March.