Protesters call on Caban to fire officers in slaying of Kawaski Trawick

A march from City Hall to police headquarters demanded action from newly appointed Commissioner Eddie Caban

The marchers turned out to protest the NYPD’s  handling of the 2019 killing of Bronxite Kawaski Trawick.

The marchers turned out to protest the NYPD’s handling of the 2019 killing of Bronxite Kawaski Trawick. Amanda Salazar

Youth activists, their adult mentors and elected officials marched from New York City Hall over to the headquarters of the New York Police Department at One Police Plaza Thursday afternoon, holding handmade signs and LGBTQ+ flags. Along the way, chants of, “Black lives matter, queer lives matter, trans lives matter,” were called as police officers walked alongside the group.

The marchers turned out to protest the NYPD’s  handling of the 2019 killing of Bronxite Kawaski Trawick, a gay Black man with a history of addiction and mental illness who was shot inside his apartment after two officers entered his home.

“There's no justice to be had in this case,” New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez said, adding that she had lived near Trawick. “Justice would be having Kawaski living his dreams in the City of New York, in the Bronx, in our neighborhood. Justice would be having Kawaski here today. But we’re here to say we’re not forgetting. We’re not leaving this alone.”

The rally was organized by Make the Road New York and Communities United for Police Reform to call on new NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban to fire the officers. The speakers included New York City Mayor Eric Adams in their requests. 

“This is about a mayor that said we can have both things – good policing and accountability,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said. “It doesn't seem like we’ve got either. He makes commitments and he doesn’t follow through with them.”

The incident took place before Adams was in office.

“Mayor Adams has continually invested in New Yorkers’ mental health and focused on where our need is greatest, going upstream to build a healthier city for all New Yorkers. Additionally, as Mayor Adams has repeatedly said, there is a sacred covenant that officers be given the tools and support they deserve to do their job, but that they must also follow the law and be held,” a City Hall spokesperson told City & State in a written statement. “The NYPD does not tolerate misconduct, and while this specific disciplinary process remains ongoing, the NYPD has taken multiple actions to improve community relations in recent years and they will continue to work every day to ensure justice and safety go hand in hand for all New Yorkers.” 

The rally presents Caban with his first test as commissioner to see if he’ll deviate from the internal disciplinary trial judging the fate of the officers. The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.

Trawick was a personal trainer and an aspiring dancer living in Morris Heights when, in April 2019, he got locked out of his apartment while he was cooking. Hallway security footage showed him walking around the hall with a bread knife and a stick, not fully dressed. He called 911 and about 15 minutes later, firefighters helped him get back inside, breaking the lock on his door as they pried it open. They left without incident.

Then, a few minutes later, two police officers showed up at Trawick’s door, which he had closed and locked with the chain lock since the bolt lock was damaged. The officers were dispatched because neighbors complained that a mentally ill neighbor was banging on their doors with a knife and a stick – Trawick, and presumably because he was trying to ask help getting back into his apartment. The officers knocked, and when the door opened slightly, they forced the door open, breaking the chain lock. 

Seeing him with the knife in his hand in front of the stove, the officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife. Trawick repeatedly asked them why they were in his home. 

They never answered him and he never put down the knife.

The two officers were 16-year NYPD veteran Herbert Davis, who is Black, and Brendan Thompson who was on the force for three years and is white. Thompson’s body cam footage shows him pulling out his Taser while Davis continued to ask Trawick to put down the knife. Davis told Thompson not to tase Trawick, but the younger officer didn't listen. 

Once Trawick was down, the officers got closer with the intention of handcuffing him, but he got up, agitated. He started moving toward the officers with the knife and yelled out a threat, to which Thompson pulled out his gun. Davis warned him not to, but Thompson once again ignored his senior partner and shot at Trawick four times, hitting him twice. 

The NYPD and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark cleared Davis and Thompson of wrongdoing, with the NYPD saying that the shooting appeared justified or couldn’t be proven not to be justified.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints against the police, issued a recommendation in June 2021 that both officers be fired on the basis of misconduct. The board found that Thompson improperly used his Taser and gun and failed to seek medical attention right away, while it found that Davis improperly entered Trawick’s apartment and then failed to seek medical attention right away. Decisions from the CCRB are just recommendations and it’s up to the police commissioner to act on them. The commissioner at the time, Dermot Shea, did not.

Police brutality activists and people who knew Trawick have been advocating for the officers to be fired for the four years since his death, with Thursday’s rally being just the latest iteration. New York City Council Member Tiffany Caban is one of the people who has been vocal on the incident.

“I’ve been standing back here thinking, ‘What the fuck am I gonna’ say this time? What am I going to say that has not been said?’” she said, referring to how many times she’s spoken about Trawick. “Trawick deserved care, not cops; he deserved dignity, not domination. He deserved to live.”