A report from ProPublica sheds new light on the killing of Kawaski Trawick by the New York City Police in his Bronx apartment. The latest information revealed in the report adds layers to the incident concerning escalation, racial power dynamics, and identifying and dealing with mental health crises.
The Trawick, a gay 32-year-old personal trainer and aspiring professional dancer, was shot and killed in his apartment by a New York Police Department officer on the late evening of April 14, 2019. The NYPD stated Trawick charged at officers with a knife. A newly released video claims the officers escalated the altercation and shows that Officer Brendan Thompson shot Trawick, despite his more-experienced partner’s insistence not to use force.
According to ProPublica, Officers Herbert Davis and Brendan Thompson failed to use techniques from NYPD’s crisis intervention training program to de-escalate the confrontation.
Davis, who is Black, repeatedly told Thompson, who is white, not to use force against Trawick, even pushing Thompson’s gun down at one point. Davis was reportedly wearing a bodycam, while Thompson was not. Thompson opened fire on Trawick anyway, first with a Taser and then with a gun, which killed him.
The NYPD, which declined to release the video of the shooting, justified the shooting of Trawick at the time. However, ProPublica obtained parts of the footage, which were released by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office as part of a detailed report.
ProPublica’s video starts with a caption: “We’re publishing it to shed light on the NYPD’s use of force when responding to people in mental health crises. It also shows the official account of the shooting was incomplete.”
Trawick reportedly called 911 after locking himself out of his apartment at the Hill House supportive housing facility. Trawick also said the building was ablaze, for which firefighters were called only to find no fire. The building staff also reportedly called the police on him because he was yelling and knocking on doors. In the video, Trawick is seen walking around with a staff.
When Davis and Thompson arrived, they were told that he might be on drugs. Hill House is known to host people with substance abuse issues, mental illness, and medical disabilities. The dispatcher also reportedly informed the officers of Trawick’s mental health history.
Rather than call for mental health backup, which would have reportedly fallen in line with their training, the two officers pressed forward. Davis took his baton out. Thompson already had his taser pointed at Trawick, and Davis repeatedly tells Thompson not to use the taser. “We ain’t gonna tase him,” he says.
Trawick, who is holding the staff, tells the officers he also is holding a knife because he’s cooking.
Thompson pulls out his gun. Less than two minutes into the altercation, Thompson tased and shot at Trawick four times, killing him. The next day, as shown in the video, NYPD Chief Terence Monahan says the shooting “[appeared] to be justified.” However, the video, according to ProPublica, shows that the officers, who had received de-escalation training when responding to a person in crisis, executed very little of that training.
Throughout the video, Thompson continually ignores Davis’ commands, even though the latter is the more experienced of the two and the senior officer. Thompson is even positioned behind Davis for most of the video.
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