Kawaski Trawick walked the corridors of the Bronx building late on April 14, 2019, banging on doors with a large wooden stick and threatening to punch the superintendent.
“He may need an ambulance,” a guard told a 911 operator at 10:51 p.m. “He’s been going crazy all day.”
Shortly after 11 p.m., he was dead after an encounter with Officer Brendan Thompson, who shot him four times. He and his partner, Officer Herbert Davis, found Mr. Trawick, 32, in his apartment with a large knife in his hand.
The officers now face an administrative process brought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent oversight body that investigates police misconduct.
Both men were cleared of criminal misconduct in 2020 by the Bronx District Attorney’s office. But relatives of Mr. Trawick, a personal trainer who moved to New York from Georgia about seven years ago with dreams of becoming a dancer, said the case was another example. of unjustified deadly force.
“Kawaski should be here with his family today,” his mother, Ellen Trawick, said Monday outside Manhattan police headquarters. She and her husband, Rickie, appeared with protesters, including two mothers whose sons died after being placed in chokeholds by police: Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014, and Iris Baez, whose son, Anthony, died in 1994.
“Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis should be fired for Kawaski’s murder,” Ms Trawick said.
Officer Thompson, who was hired in 2015, is charged with assault, unnecessary use of force, unlawful entry into Mr. Trawick’s apartment and failure to provide assistance following the shooting. Mr. Davis, who has been an officer for 19 years, is charged with trespass and failure to render aid.
The officers “failed to use proper de-escalation techniques” before firing the fatal shots, Brian Arthur, a prosecutor with the board, said Monday during opening statements in a trial expected to last five days. The officers had “no discussions about how to handle the situation” before knocking on Mr Trawick’s door, he said.
“It shouldn’t have ended like this,” added Mr Arthur. “None of these actions can be justified by self-defense.”
After the prosecutor decided not to prosecute, a police unit investigating the most serious use of force found no wrongdoing, said Michael Martinez, Mr Thompson’s lawyer, who called the case “a political prosecution”.
Officer Thompson fired because Mr. Trawick was closing in on him and Officer Davis with an eight-inch knife, Mr. Martinez said.
The officers told Mr. Trawick to put the knife down 19 times.
“A knife like that will kill an officer,” Mr. Martinez said. “We don’t demand that they die.”
Lawyers for the board of directors presented video from building and body-worn cameras to Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado, the police administrative judge presiding over the case. She will send her recommendation to Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who will have the final decision on disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
Board prosecutors said Mr Trawick’s case requires accountability. After the young man was shot, the officers left him bleeding on the floor of his kitchen. He died almost instantly, according to a prosecutor’s report.
“Neither agent did anything,” Mr. Arthur said.
A tenant and two workers in the Grand Avenue building had called several 911 numbers around 10:45 p.m. on April 19 to report that Mr. Trawick was harassing tenants.
Video showed him in boxer shorts and a sleeveless trench coat, knocking on doors and brandishing a four-foot stick. At one point a knife was visible in his hands.
He locked himself outside his apartment and pounded on the supervisor’s door, yelling at him to help. Mr. Trawick also called 911 and said the building was on fire.
“If you don’t hurry, we’re all going to burn,” he said.
Firefighters arrived soon after and broke down his door. Seeing no evidence of fire, they left, and Mr. Trawick entered his apartment and closed the door behind him.
At 11:06 PM, Officers Thompson and Davis arrived. They knocked on the door, then pushed it open slightly to see Mr Trawick holding the stick and knife, according to footage from their body-worn cameras played during Monday’s proceedings.
‘I’m cooking,’ Mr Trawick told them as they asked him to put down the knife.
When he refused, Officer Thompson fired his taser at him.
Seconds later, Mr. Trawick stood up with the knife and stick in hand, according to the body camera footage. He ran up to officers and yelled, “Get out” and “I’m going to kill you all.”
Officer Thompson shot him at 11:08 p.m., about two minutes after he and his partner arrived at the door. They left Mr. Trawick at the apartment, where emergency responders arrived minutes later, according to the prosecutor’s office report.