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Family of Black bisexual man shot dead by police in his own home demand justice after body cam footage released

Emma Powys Maurice November 20, 2020
Kawaski Trawick

Kawaski Trawick before his death (Facebook)

Newly-released police body cam footage has drawn further questions over the death of Kawaski Trawick, a Black bisexual man who was shot dead by police in his home.

32-year-old Trawick was killed on April 14, 2019 when a police officer fired four shots into his chest at his apartment in the Bronx, New York. He was part of the local ballroom scene and had been living in Hill House, a supportive housing unit.

The fatal shooting came after after a chaotic night of conflicting phone calls to the emergency services, the first from Trawick, who said he had been locked out of his apartment where there was food cooking on the hob. Firefighters left after letting the dancer back into his home.

A security guard and the superintendent of Trawick’s building also called police alleging that he was annoying neighbours by banging on doors armed with a knife and a long wooden stick.

He was still holding the stick and knife from his kitchen when the pair of NYPD cops entered his apartment without permission.

With conflicting accounts clouding the events leading up to Trawick’s death, Bronx district attorney Darcel Clark released police body camera and hallway surveillance footage showing the moment when NYPD officers entered his apartment.

“Why are you in my home?” asked Trawick repeatedly, wearing just his underwear and boots. “I have a knife because I’m cooking,” he said when police ordered him to drop the weapon.

Trawick, whom one of the officers later described as an “emotionally disturbed person,” then became distressed, saying “hold it, hold it, hold it, the centre, the centre, the centre of the brain,” just before the police tased him to the ground.

He got back up yelling, “I’m gonna kill you all! Get out!” and was moving toward the cops when officer Brendan Thompson fired the fatal shots. Immediately after this they closed the door to the apartment without checking on Trawick or offering basic medical attention.

Kawaski Trawick death “painfully illustrates” police response to mental health crisis

The footage and report reaffirmed the anger of advocates and family members who have maintained that officers failed to properly de-escalate the situation before resorting to killing a man in his own apartment.

“It’s crystal clear from the video and the facts that NYPD Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis unnecessarily killed my son,” Ellen Trawick told ABC NY.

“Kawaski was cooking in his own apartment, not a threat to anyone when Davis and Thompson entered his home without permission and immediately escalated the encounter resulting in Kawaski’s death. They refused to answer when my son repeatedly asked them why they were in his home.

“Neither officer gave any aid while my son lay dying on the floor. If Thompson and Davis had treated Kawaski like a human being, he would be alive today.”

She condemned the district attorney’s office for failing to indict the officers and for “dragging their feet” in releasing the video and report over a year and a half after Trawick’s death.

The investigation found no criminality on the part of the police, but revealed the responders lacked information that would have been helpful when they encountered Trawick in his apartment.

District attorney Clark said the death “painfully illustrates” the fact that urgent changes are needed in police response to mental health crises.

More: Bronx, Kawaski Trawick, mental health, NYPD, Police bodycam footage

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