Officers Face Discipline in Killing of Man Who Wielded Knife in Own Home

Kawaski Trawick strode through the halls of the Bronx building late on April 14, 2019, banging on doors with a large wooden stick and threatening to punch the superintendent.

“He might need an ambulance,” a security guard told a 911 operator at 10:51 p.m. “He’s been losing his mind all day.”

Shortly after 11 p.m., he was dead after an encounter with Officer Brendan Thompson, who fired at him four times. He and his partner, Officer Herbert Davis, found Mr. Trawick, 32, in his apartment holding a large knife.

The officers are now facing an administrative trial brought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent oversight body that examines police misconduct.

Both men were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Bronx District Attorney’s office in 2020. But relatives of Mr. Trawick, a personal trainer who moved to New York from Georgia about seven years ago with dreams of becoming a dancer, said the case was another example of unwarranted fatal force.

“Kawaski should be still here today with his family,” his mother, Ellen Trawick, said outside police headquarters in Manhattan Monday. She and her husband, Rickie, appeared with protesters who included two mothers whose sons died after being placed in chokeholds by police: Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014, and Iris Baez, whose son, Anthony, died in 1994.

“Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis should be fired for murdering Kawaski,” Ms. Trawick said.

Officer Thompson, who was hired in 2015, is accused of assault, unnecessary use of force, unlawfully entering Mr. Trawick’s apartment and failing to render aid after the shooting. Mr. Davis, who has been an officer for 19 years, is accused of trespass and failure to render aid.

The officers “failed to use proper de-escalation techniques” before firing the fatal shots, Brian Arthur, a prosecutor with the board, said on Monday during opening statements in a trial that is expected to last five days. The officers had “no discussions as to how they were going to handle the situation” before knocking on Mr. Trawick’s door, he said.

“It did not have to end this way,” Mr. Arthur added. “None of these actions can be justified by self-defense.”

After the district attorney decided not to prosecute, a Police Department unit that investigates the most serious use of force found no misconduct, said Michael Martinez, the lawyer for Mr. Thompson, who called the case “a political prosecution.”

Officer Thompson fired because Mr. Trawick came at him and Officer Davis with an eight-inch blade, Mr. Martinez said.

The officers told Mr. Trawick to put down the knife 19 times.

“That kind of knife will kill an officer,” Mr. Martinez said. “We don’t require them to die.”

Board lawyers presented video from building and body-worn cameras to Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado, the police administrative judge presiding over the case. She will send her recommendation to Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who has the final decision on discipline, which could include firing.

Prosecutors for the board said that the case of Mr. Trawick demands accountability. After the young man was shot, the officers left him on the floor of his kitchen, bleeding. He died almost instantly, according to a district attorney’s report.

“Neither officer did anything,” Mr. Arthur said.

A tenant and two workers in the building on Grand Avenue had made several 911 calls around 10:45 p.m. on April 19 reporting that Mr. Trawick was harassing tenants.

Video showed him in boxers and a sleeveless trench coat, knocking on doors and wielding a four-foot stick. At one point, a knife was visible in his hands.

He locked himself out of his apartment and banged on the superintendent’s door, yelling at him to help. Mr. Trawick also called 911 and said the building was on fire.

“If you don’t hurry up, we’re all going to burn,” he said.

Firefighters arrived soon after and broke down his door. Seeing no evidence of a fire, they left, and Mr. Trawick went inside his apartment, closing the door behind him.

At 11:06 p.m., Officers Thompson and Davis arrived. They knocked on the door, then pushed it open slightly to see Mr. Trawick holding the stick and the knife, according to footage from their body-worn cameras that was played during Monday’s proceeding.

“I’m cooking,” Mr. Trawick told them as they asked him to put down the knife.

When he refused, Officer Thompson fired his Taser at him.

Seconds later, Mr. Trawick rose to his feet clutching the knife and the stick, the body camera footage shows. He ran toward officers, screaming, “Get out,” and, “I’m going to kill you all.”

Officer Thompson shot him at 11:08 p.m., about two minutes after he and his partner had come to the door. They left Mr. Trawick in the apartment, where emergency service workers arrived minutes later, according to the report by the district attorney’s office.

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