It has been nearly three and a half years since two NYPD officers entered Kawaski Trawick's home and shot him to death in his own kitchen as he was cooking.
Today, Officer Herbert Davis and his partner Brendan Thompson, who shot Trawick first with a Taser and then, fatally, with his handgun, remain on active duty. The Bronx District Attorney found no fault with what the officers did. Neither did an internal NYPD review.
As is often the case for the family and friends of people killed by the NYPD, the last hope for some measure of accountability now hinges on whether an administrative disciplinary process initiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board can result in the officers losing their jobs. The CCRB brought charges against the officers in June of last year, and yesterday was to be the first hearing in the proceedings. For Trawick's grieving parents, Ellen and Ricky, who took time off from their jobs and journeyed from their home in Georgia to attend the hearing, it was another disappointment.
A little after nine in the morning, the Trawicks were led through a series of checkpoints at One Police Plaza and into a small hearing room on the fourth floor. They were told that they would not be in the same room as the officers involved in killing their son, who would be teleconferencing in from the precinct where they work. Neither would they be in the same room as the NYPD official acting as a judge in the case, Deputy Commissioner for Trials Rosemarie Maldonado, who would be in another room at police headquarters. In any case, they were told, the officers on trial were running late, so they should just sit in the low-ceilinged gallery of the grim trial room and wait for the video screen off to their right to spring to life.
On April 14, 2019, Trawick, an aspiring dancer from Georgia who had moved to New York City in 2016 and was living in supportive housing in Morris Heights, locked himself out of his apartment while cooking, and called 911 to have the Fire Department let him back in, which it did, leaving his door lock broken. But a security guard and the building superintendent had already called the police, telling them that Trawick was disturbing other residents.
When Officers Davis and Thompson arrived, extremely disturbing surveillance and body camera footage show, they pushed Trawick's door open, confronting him as he was cooking. "Why are you in my home?" Trawick asked. The officers didn't answer, but told him to put the knife down. "I have a knife because I'm cooking," he told them. As Trawick continued to talk with them, Thompson shot him with his Taser, and Thompson fell to the floor. The officers entered the apartment. Trawick, now in great distress, got back up. "Get out, get out!" he yelled. "I'm going to kill you all!" Davis and Thompson stepped back out into the hallway, Thompson drew his gun and fired four shots at Trawick; 112 seconds had elapsed since the officers had arrived at Trawick's door.
Neither officer made any move to offer Trawick medical assistance. When an NYPD sergeant responding to the shooting asked who was injured, Thompson and Davis responded together: "Nobody, just a perp."
Around 10:15 on Thursday morning, Davis and Thompson finally logged on, and Maldonado began proceedings with a brief chastisement, reminding the officers to be on time. "You're police officers. We're half an hour late," she said. "This is a tribunal, and I am a judge, and I expect you to respect the tribunal."
As it was, the hearing was a bust. A full 16 months after he had been charged by the NYPD, the Police Benevolent Association, which provides officers with legal representation when necessary, hadn't seen fit to get Davis a lawyer for the proceeding. Davis is facing departmental charges of entry of premises and refusal to obtain medical treatment. Thompson is facing the same charges, as well as charges for firing his Taser and for pointing and firing his gun. CCRB prosecutors are seeking to have both officers dismissed.
"I don't see what the rush is, given that this is a 2019 case," said Michael Martinez, a lawyer with the PBA's go-to-firm, Worth, Longworth, and London, who is representing Thompson. Regardless, he said, "Davis deserves his own attorney." Martinez offered no explanation for why, nearly a year and a half after receiving disciplinary charges, Davis was still without a lawyer.
Andre Applewhite, an attorney for the CCRB prosecuting the case, pushed back. "We're not attempting to rush the case," he said. "We simply want it on the calendar." Applewhite told the tribunal that in a recent conversation with the NYPD's Department Advocate's Office, which handles officer discipline, he was told that proceedings couldn't get underway until next year.
"It's not the position of this tribunal that this shouldn't get a hearing until 2023," Maldonado responded, and set a date for the next conference on November 17.
As the exchange played out on the video screen at the far corner of the room, the Trawicks looked on in silence.
"This case epitomizes everything that is wrong," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told the press outside One Police Plaza after the hearing. "Sometimes people will confuse being 'anti' [police] with simply wanting accountability and transparency. Police-community relationships can't get better without transparency and accountability."
Williams noted that Mayor Eric Adams's interest in speedy trial resolution seems to be selective. "This administration is consistently complaining about trials taking too long when we're talking about public safety," Williams said. "Here, the trial they control."
Outside police headquarters after the hearing, the Trawicks were unsure whether they'd be able to make the next hearing. Getting time off work was difficult for them, Ellen said. Ricky, a truck driver, said he was unable to take paid time off.
"My husband and I flew in last night for a court conference today, to be disappointed and heartbroken," Ellen Trawick said. "It’s very frustrating. For us to have traveled here, and for this court process to be delayed again, it's just very frustrating and disappointing to my family."