Three years after killing of Kawaski Trawick, disciplinary trial scheduled for two NYPD officers

Photo courtesy of Justice Committee

A disciplinary trial has been scheduled for two police officers involved in the fatal shooting of dancer and personal trainer Kawaski Trawick in his Bronx apartment in April 2019.

The trial of Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis will begin on April 24, 2023, 19 months after the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the agency tasked with oversight of NYPD, substantiated charges of misconduct against Thompson and Davis.

For Trawick’s parents and NYPD reform advocacy organizations, the April trial date is “farther out than we all had hoped for,” said Yul-san Liem, Director of Development and Operations for the Justice Committee, a steering committee for a coalition of organizations advocating for NYPD reform.

“It’s at least on the calendar, and I think that for everyone, it feels like an important step forward, but certainly nowhere near the end,” said Liem.

Thompson fired four bullets at Trawick fewer than two minutes after the officers entered his supportive housing residence through a broken door.

The Justice Committee got in contact with Trawicks’ parents just days after their son’s death. Since then, the organization has been helping the Trawicks advocate for a trial.

Thursday marks the second time Ellen and Rickie Trawick have traveled from Georgia to New York in the hope of setting a trial date. A pre-trial conference last month was adjourned early without setting a trial date at a request from Thompson’s attorney.

This was just one delay in the Trawicks’ years-long fight to set a trial investigating their son’s death, which was recorded on Thompson’s body camera. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark released this footage publicly in November 2020, alongside a report concluding it could not be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Thompson’s use of deadly force was not justified. Instead of filing criminal charges against the officers, Clark encouraged NYPD to improve training and staffing at supportive housing facilities.

The CCRB reached a different conclusion in September 2021, when the review board filed misconduct charges against Thompson and Davis for their illegal entry by force, unjustified use of weapons and failure to provide adequate medical treatment. 

Since then, Trawick’s family and the Justice Committee have been fighting for a trial date when CCRB can begin prosecution of the officers.

After this date was finally set on Thursday afternoon, elected officials NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and NYC Councilmember Pierina Sanchez spoke in support of the Trawicks during a post-conference rally outside One Police Plaza. 

Both Thompson and Davis are still on NYPD payroll. In 2014, the last time an NYPD officer was tried for the killing of a civilian, Daniel Pantaleo was fired before his trial when the recorded death of Eric Garner gained national attention. Advocacy groups like the Justice Committee want to build similar interest in Trawick’s upcoming trial. 

“For some of these cases and some of the families that we work with, it’s very, very difficult, even from the beginning, to build public attention on the case,” said Liem. “I think people in New York are starting to really know who Kawaski was, and is, but that has taken a lot of resistance on the part of the family.”

The NYPD declined to comment, but noted the trial calendar will be posted on the NYPD website when it is available.