The mother of Kawaski Trawick, the 32-year old Black man tased and shot to death by the NYPD in 2019, has spent years demanding the officers responsible for his death be fired—but she believes she may soon hear the decision on whether that will happen.
“I’m hopeful,” said Ellen Trawick, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, about a pending discipline decision by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban into the fate of officers Brendan Thompson—who tased and shot Trawick—and his partner Herbert Davis, who pushed Trawick’s door open without permission.
The NYPD press office did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the case or when the commissioner plans to make a disciplinary decision.
But police officials have previously said they consider the shooting to be justified, and both officers remain on the job, despite the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiating misconduct against the officers.
In September, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of trials, Rosemarie Maldonado, wrote in a draft disciplinary decision obtained by The City that “the trial record raises serious doubts as to whether Respondent Thompson followed Department guidelines during this incident.”
But ultimately, Maldonado called those doubts “moot” and recommended that all charges be dropped, because the CCRB’s decision arrived after the expiration of the 18 month statute of limitations.
Body camera footage of the incident took 20 months to be made public, said Loyda Colón, executive director of the Justice Committee, a grassroots organization dedicated to addressing police violence in New York City.
Alexa Avilés, (D-Brooklyn), criticized Maldonado’s recommendation to drop the disciplinary charges against the officers.
“Accountability does not mean taking advantage of loopholes,” said Avilés, speaking at the October 10 rally for justice in Trawick’s death. Lack of accountability is “enabling murder,” she said.
Community group leaders and elected officials took turns speaking at the rally in support of the Trawick family, which took place in front of City Hall. Those present also recounted the names of other people killed by the NYPD.
“We all know this is not the first time that this has happened,” State Senator Julia Salazar, (D-Brooklyn, Queens) said.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams challenged the Adams administration to treat NYPD disciplinary hearings differently than they have been treated in the past. According to a 2020 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, less than one percent of CCRB complaints receive serious disciplinary punishments like suspension or termination.
“Someone’s son is dead,” Williams said.
“We Don’t Need to Be Covering Them Up”
Adams has yet to meet with the Trawick family despite a letter, hand-delivered to City Hall by the family in May, asking for a meeting to discuss the death of their son. The mayor has also denied knowledge of the delays in the NYPD video footage being turned over—telling reporters at an October press conference, “I don’t want evidence being withheld. The goal is to allow the truth to be told. You know, when we make mistakes in the Police Department, we have to live up to them, We have to own them. We don’t need to be covering them up … I have to look at this specific case. It’s the first time I’m hearing that it was a delay in turning over video, and if someone intentionally withheld that video, they’re going to be held accountable because that can’t happen.”
City Hall did not return repeated requests for comment on if Adams would agree to meet with the Trawick family.
Over the last four years, the opportunities for Adams and the Trawicks to meet have been plentiful, the family said.
Ellen Trawick said she has been traveling to New York City from Atlanta to seek justice for her son “every other month.” The constant travel has caused financial hardship, as she and her relatives take off from work every time they come to the city, she said.
But financial hardship is no deterrent to keep coming back to NYC in search of justice for her firstborn son, she said. She supported her son’s decision to move to New York, and now her trips are an extension of that support. Trawick’s mother is part of a growing group of Black mothers who have become advocates for their children killed by police. Other Black mothers, who also lost children to police violence, reached out in support and encouraged her to not give up on trying to obtain justice for her son, she said.
“If he met you, he met a friend,” said Trawick’s mother about her son, an openly gay man who moved to The Bronx to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer, and was also working as a personal trainer.
On April 14, 2019, Trawick called 911 for help gaining entry to his apartment after realizing he had locked himself out—telling dispatchers there was a fire in the building, officials said.
Firefighters arrived at Trawick’s apartment and forced entry to his apartment, damaging the door and locks in the process.
Trawick’s superintendent also called 911 to ask police to come to the building, which is reserved for residents with histories of either substance abuse or mental health issues. The superintendent said Trawick had threatened him, officials said.
When police arrived, Trawick was already back in his apartment, with the door closed and locked with a chain, cooking and listening to music. Officers Thompson and Davis pushed their way into Trawick’s apartment without consent, according to body camera footage released by The Bronx District Attorney. Trawick asked officers why they were in his apartment. The interaction escalated from there, as Officer Thompson aimed a taser on Trawick while Officer Davis repeatedly told his less-veteran partner to stop. Each of them asked Trawick to put down the serrated bread knife Trawick was holding. Thompson then fired a taser at Trawick, and when Trawick came back up, shot him four times, according to officials and the video footage.
After a 112-second interaction with the NYPD, Trawick was dead.
Advocates at the rally indicated that Maldonado still has time to amend her recommendation. Alternatively, they said Caban—who has the ultimate authority to decide the officers’ fate—could ignore the recommendation and decide to levy a punishment against his officers.
Sister Robins, 67, of Morrisania, led the crowd in song and chant in calling for accountability.
“I’ve got a message for police,” she said. “There is another jail, and it’s called hell.”