Bronx DA Declines to Charge Cops in Kawaski Trawick Killing

Kawaski Trawick, a gay man who was shot to death by cops in his Bronx home early last year.
Facebook/ Kawaski Trawick

The cops involved in the fatal shooting of an out gay man in his own apartment in the Bronx last year will not face charges, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced on August 12, infuriating the victim’s family and sparking calls for the officers to be fired.

The NYPD told Gay City News in April 2019 that 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick, who lived at Hill House in the borough’s Morris Heights section, called police saying his apartment was on fire. His neighbors also called the police, bringing officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis to his apartment.

Officers claimed that upon their arrival Trawick was holding a kitchen knife and broomstick, after which cops tased him. The police alleged he then recovered and charged at them, knife in hand, prompting the fatal shooting.

The cops who responded to the case faced scrutiny in the aftermath of the shooting. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told Gay City News last October that he watched the police body camera footage from the incident and concluded that “it was quite clear that they had every opportunity to come out of that house and instead they stayed in.”

“There was a knife in his kitchen — I don’t know where else you would have a knife than in a kitchen,” Williams explained. “[The police] just opened the door. Think about how you would feel if somebody opened the door.”

Clark, meanwhile, issued a public statement this week in which she said the case calls for “a thoughtful review of police procedures and training techniques” but conceded that “we do not find that the facts warrant a criminal prosecution.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.bronxda.nyc.gov

Clark said the office’s public integrity bureau met with Trawick’s family and advocates on August 12 to inform them of the decision not to bring charges against the cops. The DA is committing to release a “comprehensive and transparent report that will detail the facts” in the case and justify the lack of criminal charges.

Trawick’s mother, Ellen Trawick, blasted the DA in a response to Clark’s announcement.

“My family and I are heartbroken and outraged that Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark is choosing not to charge Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis for murdering my son, Kawaski Trawick, while he was cooking in his home, on April 14, 2019,” Trawick said in a written statement issued through the Justice Committee, a grassroots organization aiming to eradicate police violence and systemic racism. “After meeting with DA Clark’s staff, viewing surveillance and body camera footage, and listening to 911 calls it is 100 percent clear to me and my family that Kawaski should be alive today.”

She continued, “The officers who killed my son escalated the situation every step of the way by opening the door to his home while he was cooking, then yelling commands at him while he was nowhere near them, then tasing him while he posed no threat, and then shooting him. They rendered no aid and let him die on the floor. Both of these officers were [Crisis Intervention Team-trained] but instead of treating my son as a human worthy of dignity, they shot and killed him in cold blood, in his own home. Officer Brendan Thompson in particular seemed to want to cause harm, he tased my son after his partner told him not to, and then he shot my son. My family and I are demanding that Mayor de Blasio make sure that both of these officers are fired immediately. They are a danger to New Yorkers.”

The Bronx DA has drawn the ire of the LGBTQ community on multiple occasions in recent years. Most recently, she deadnamed Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, a trans woman who died while in restrictive housing in Rikers last year due to seizures caused by epilepsy, when announcing that there would be no criminal charges in that case. Guards tasked with watching Polanco blew her off for extended periods of time and carelessly neglected their duties to oversee her well-being. The mayor later suspended 17 members of the Department of Correction in connection with Cubilette-Polanco’s death based on the findings of a department oversight board.

Clark also aggressively prosecuted gay youth Abel Cedeno, who is now locked up for 14 years for a manslaughter conviction stemming from a tragic stabbing incident that left one of his classmates dead after they were bullying Cedeno. Clark’s team, led by assistant district attorneys Nancy Borko and Paul Andersen, said the diminutive Cedeno was “bent on creating an opportunity to use” a knife he brought with him to school out of what asserted was concern for his safety, mocked him, and described him as “a big man with a big mouth.”

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