NYPD Officers Cleared in Death of Black Man After Taser Couldn’t Subdue Him
By James King
BRONX, New York — New York police officers fatally shot a black man in his Bronx apartment in April 2019 after a taser failed to subdue him. Sixteen months later the Bronx District Attorney announced investigators found no criminality in Kawaski Trawick’s death.
On Nov. 17, DA Darcel Clark’s office released a 42-page report with body camera footage explaining her decision not to charge the officers involved.
Trawick, 32, was shot by police at Hill House, a supportive living environment. Building security called police and said Trawick had been harassing tenants.
Family and advocates accused the officers of failing to de-escalate the situation before opening fire and not answering the victim when he asked why they were in his home.
After viewing footage of the event in August, the victim’s mother, Ellen Trawick, said: “NYPD went into Kawaski’s home and murdered him.” She demanded city officials fire the two officers, calling them “a clear danger to New Yorkers.”
Trawick asked officers: “Why are you, why are you, why are you in my home?” before he was tasered and then shot.
The Bronx DA has released CCTV footage, including emergency calls from the superintendent and Trawick himself, who claimed the building was on fire, which was denied by building security.
Security called police saying Trawick was “banging on doors with a wooden stick” and “losing his mind.”
Footage from around 10:50 p.m. shows Trawick talking to firefighters in the building foyer dressed in a long white coat, long boots and underwear and holding a wooden staff, but not behaving aggressively toward them.
Firemen then break down his apartment door and enter it with him. However, there was no fire and the firefighters leave at about 11 p.m.
NYPD officers Herbert Davis and Brendan Thompson then arrive at the building at 11:02 p.m.
Davis knocks on the door at 11:06 p.m, but it is not answered. The duo enters the apartment and see Trawick in his underwear holding his stick and a knife. He tells them he is cooking and asks why have they entered his home.
At 11:08 p.m., cop Thompson tasers him as he talks about “the center of the brain.” Trawick then falls to the ground, but gets back up as police enter.
At this point, Thompson drops his taser and takes his gun out of its holster.
Trawick then starts screaming and running around the room before coming at the officers screaming: “Get away, get out b*tch.” Davis responds: “No, no, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” knocking Thompson’s gun down.
Trawick then yells, “I’m going to kill you all! Get out!” Officer Thompson fires four rounds at him from the doorway, one of which pierced his heart and killed him.
The officers then call the incident in.
Trawick’s mother accuses DA Clark’s office of “dragging its feet” in taking more than a year and a half to release the video. She called the report “biased” and based on “NYPD talking points instead of highlighting the multiple problems with the officers’ actions.”
Both police officers had received crisis intervention training to deal with people in emotional distress, NYPD reports. However, Darcel’s report also notes the officers were not fully aware of Trawick’s history of mental illness.
Since 2017, 14 mentally ill New Yorkers have died in police encounters.
The case of George Floyd, a black man who died while being arrested in Minneapolis in late May, has caused such police-involved incidents to be subject to much greater scrutiny.
(Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew B Hall)
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