Friends and supporters of a Bronx man gunned down police at his home earlier this month said they’re plagued by questions. They said they have few answers, however, about how the late-night confrontation resulted in 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick’s death.
Now, community advocates are rallying to demand accountability in Trawick’s killing. Demonstrators chanted “What’s his name? Kawaski Trawick” as they gathered in protest near the building where the avid dancer and fitness buff was shot dead.
“How could you just cut his life short?” Thomas Johnson, a friend of the slain man, told Spectrum’s NY1. “Like how? What happened?”
Authorities were responding to a 911 call at Hill House, a social services center for people battling addiction and other issues, around 10:50 p.m. April 14 when they encountered the Bronx man outside his fourth-floor unit, the New York Daily News reported. Police said Trawick was armed with a knife and a large stick, similar to a stickball bat.
The man, who advocates say was known to be emotionally unstable, was allegedly threatening neighbors and pounding on their doors with a stick after getting locked out of his own apartment.
“I was home watching TV and there’s a knock on my door,” Hill House resident Richard Jones told the newspaper. “I tell him through the door, there’s nobody home. He was asking me for a dollar for a cigarette.”
Jones added that Trawick was “running around the hall, butt-ass naked” after getting locked out. A building security guard described the victim as a little “off” and said he would talk to himself or would go around trying to unlock people’s doors.
When police approached his apartment, they said Trawick charged that them, prompting one of the officers to deploy his Taser. The shock only temporarily subdued the man, and he went after the officers again. This time the officer fired a shot from his gun, striking Trawick in his upper body.
The Bronx man was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.
NYPD Chief Terence Monahan said the shooting “appears to be justified,” however, community advocates argued that Trawick should have never been confronted by police.
“This was an individual who was experiencing emotional distress and he needed help and not a bullet to the chest,” said Vocal NY organizer Jason Walker, who attended last week’s rally. “He was in his room, so at the point of NYPD engagement he was not an active threat, why wasn’t de-escalation tactics happening?”
Another advocate, who asked to remain unnamed, questioned why the cops were called in the first place.
“When people call the police, they know exactly what they’re doing,” she told NY1. “They called the police because they felt [Trawick’s] life did not matter.”
One supporter said the tragedy spoke to how police are ill-equipped to intervene in situations involving the mentally ill.
Before NYPD officers responded to the Hill House apartment building, Chief Monahan said the FDNY had responded to a call from Trawick “claiming his front door was locked and his apartment was on fire.” He had food cooking on the stove.
At the time, authorities were receiving dueling 911 calls: one from a frantic Trawick reporting his fears of a fire and one from the building superintendent and a security guard claiming the man was banging on doors, harassing his neighbors.
As reported by THE CITY, “The FDNY came and left after breaking open the door of his apartment” and finding no fire. “Police arrived seven minutes later — an encounter that ended with Trawick’s shooting death.”
Trawick’s father, Ricky Trawick, told the outlet, “I don’t think they really had to kill my son, I don’t think they had to shoot him and shoot him dead like that.”
Monahan said the situation escalated “very quickly” and said the Bronx man wasn’t naked when he was shot. The incident was captured on one of the officers’ body-worn cameras, although the footage hasn’t been made public.
Trawick, who had moved to New York from Atlanta to live his dream, was remembered by friends as someone who had his issues but wasn’t violent. Longtime friend Anthony Smallwood, 22, told the Daily News that Trawick had gotten into a lot of “physical fights” and was shunned by his family because of his sexual orientation.
“He was bisexual. We’re both bisexual,” said Smallwood, who was distraught after learning of his friend’s death. “He’s the one that helped me come out.”
With two weeks now passed, advocates are calling on the attorney general’s office to conduct an independent investigation.