Twenty months after Kawaski Trawick was shot and killed by an officer, the New York Police Department has disclosed the nearly full footage of what happened. It shows not only the shooting itself, which the department released footage of last month, but also the minutes afterward.
Other officers converged on the building in the Bronx after the officer who fired at Trawick reported “shots fired.” Many of the arriving officers activated body-worn cameras, which captured what they said.
“Who’s injured?” a sergeant asks as she arrives in front of Trawick’s door. Two officers respond in near-unison: “Nobody. Just a perp.”
As ProPublica detailed last month, Trawick was shot just 112 seconds after officers arrived at his apartment.
A more experienced, Black officer had tried to stop his younger, white partner from using force. The younger officer first fired his Taser without a verbal warning to Trawick, who had been standing with a bread knife and stick. When Trawick started running toward the officers seconds later, the officer shot Trawick twice, killing him almost instantly.
Trawick’s mother, Ellen Trawick, told ProPublica the further footage “upsets me on so many levels. I don’t see why they would refer to my son as a ‘perp’ — he had not committed a crime, he was not committing a crime and he was in his own home.”
Kawaski Trawick, who had struggled with his mental health and drugs, had called 911 after he locked himself out of his apartment. Firefighters had let Trawick back in, but police arrived soon after. Others in the building had also called 911 saying Trawick was banging on doors and walking the halls with a stick and knife.
“Why are you in my home?” Trawick repeatedly demanded to know after officers arrived. The older officer, Herbert Davis, and his partner, Brendan Thompson, did not answer him. Instead, they told him again and again to put the bread knife down.
About 30 seconds into the encounter, Davis told Thompson, “We ain’t gonna tase him.” When Thompson fired his Taser anyway and then aimed his gun after Trawick got up, Davis briefly pushed it down saying, “No, no — don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” (Here is an annotated video of the encounter.)
The newly disclosed footage shows Davis gave this account to colleagues minutes later: “He came at us with a knife. We tased him to stop him because we were trying to tell him to put it down.”
The day after the April 14, 2019, shooting, a top NYPD official told reporters it “appears to be justified. This guy’s charging at them, with a knife in one hand, a stick in the other, screaming at them, in a confined space.”
The NYPD declined to release further details on the case for more than a year and a half, saying doing so could interfere with its investigation. The NYPD released some video of the shooting about a month ago, soon after ProPublica’s story and after the Bronx district attorney published footage.
The NYPD released the latest footage to the nonprofit organization New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which had sued, demanding the full, unedited footage. The NYPD sent the group multiple videos in late December, the night before a court hearing in the case. The footage includes some redactions by the NYPD to cover things like civilians’ faces.
“It’s good that we’ve been able to get footage, but there’s been an enormous delay,” said Benjamin Reed, a lawyer representing New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We first filed our request in the spring of 2019, shortly after the incident.”
In June of 2020, during the height of Black Lives Matter protests, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the NYPD to quickly release body-worn camera footage after an officer fires a weapon or seriously injures a civilian. The department has said it’s working through a backlog of footage. The NYPD has also faced criticism for not sharing footage with investigators from the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Asked for the latest on the Trawick case, the NYPD told ProPublica that its investigation is complete but pending review by the police commissioner, who has final say over any discipline. The NYPD told ProPublica in November that both officers remain on active duty. (Davis has declined to comment and Thompson has not returned requests for comment.)
The latest Trawick footage shows the reaction not only of officers. It captures the building’s superintendent distraught in the minutes after the shooting. He had called 911 that night saying Trawick had threatened him after the super wouldn’t open Trawick’s door. “Why did you have to shoot that man?” the super repeatedly asks an officer. “Y’all gonna shoot me too? Come on, y’all couldn’t tase him or something?”
“We did that,” an officer responded. “It didn’t work.”