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Eric Adams Still Can’t Say Whether NYPD Ran Out the Clock on Accountability for Kawaski Trawick’s Killers

"They held all the evidence that they needed to prosecute these officers."

Ellen Trawick outside of City Hall

Ellen Trawick speaking outside of City Hall on Tuesday. (Hell Gate)

Ellen Trawick, the mother of Kawaski Trawick, a dancer killed in his apartment by two police officers in 2019, has been trying for a very long time to speak with Mayor Eric Adams about her son and what should happen to the officers who shot him to death and made no effort to render first aid.

Now, with a provisional NYPD recommendation that the officers face no disciplinary consequences, and the possibility of a final ruling by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban as soon as this week, Trawick feels an even greater urgency. She took time off work and traveled from Georgia to appeal to the mayor as directly as she could, with a press conference outside the gates of City Hall.

"Mayor Adams and Commissioner Caban have not said Kawaski's name," Trawick told reporters Tuesday morning. "We delivered a letter to Mayor Adams back in May. And we didn't get a response from no one from the Mayor's Office." 

The "NYPD is trying to blame the CCRB, saying that the CCRB didn't meet the time," Trawick said. "But that's not true. The NYPD held the evidence, they held the video camera, they held all the evidence that they needed to prosecute these officers." 

The NYPD's long delay in turning over evidence helped run the clock out on a statute of limitations for imposing discipline on the officers, but it also took a toll on Kawaski's family, Trawick said. "We waited 20 months to find out that [officers] Brandon Thompson and Herbert Davis took Kawaski's life," she said. "They wanted us to believe that Kawaski had done something wrong, but he had not."

When Hell Gate asked Adams a week ago about the handling of the Trawick case, he said it was the first he was hearing that the NYPD had withheld critical video evidence from civilian investigators. Ellen Trawick and her supporters find that hard to believe, not least of all because they called his attention to it in the letter they sent five months ago.

"Mayor Adams is lying," said Loyda Colon, of the Justice Committee, a police accountability organization that has been supporting the Trawicks through the departmental trial. "Or he needs to stop touring other countries and start paying attention to what is happening in his city."

Meanwhile, just over the fence, the man Trawick has been trying to speak to was holding a press conference in the Blue Room of City Hall. Asked for the second week in a row about the Trawick case, the mayor again punted, seeming to suggest that neither he nor his police commissioner have a working familiarity with one of the most significant police discipline cases since the death of Eric Garner. 

"After the last time you asked me, Commissioner Caban, who was out of town, and I was out of town, said he was going to look into it, and find out: Was the delay on our part? Exactly what happened in the delay?" Adams said. "Because we don't want to interfere with the wheels of justice. It can't happen on our end. So he's looking into that. "

Asked if he would speak with the Trawick family, Adams said Tuesday he doesn't "have a problem with it," but only "once this is completed," because, he said, "it is up for the commissioner to make the final determination."

Hell Gate wasn't allowed into the mayor's press conference, arriving late as we did from the simultaneously scheduled Trawick press conference, but we emailed City Hall some follow-up questions: Did the mayor ever read the letter Trawick's family sent him back in May? Does the mayor stand by the NYPD Force Investigation Division's investigation, which cleared the officers of wrongdoing after cursory 30-minute interviews that, ProPublica reported in May, did not even refer to the video evidence? Does the mayor stand behind the disciplinary process for Davis and Thompson? 

City Hall did not respond directly to our questions, responding only that "as with any NYPD disciplinary case, the mayor will not intervene while the case is ongoing. The police commissioner will make this decision independent of City Hall."

Back outside City Hall at Ellen Trawick's rally, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams urged Adams to meet with Kawaski's mother, and to do so before his police commissioner makes a final judgment on discipline for the policemen who killed her son.

"Someone's son is dead—there has to be accountability for that," Williams told the assembled crowd. "How do we continue the conversations that need to happen around policing, and safer streets and public safety, if people can't have some kind of belief that accountability will happen, that people will be fired if things weren't done the way they should be?"

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