No Discipline for Officers Who Killed Kawaski Trawick

Criminal justice-reform advocates rally in front of NYPD headquarters after internal charges against two officers who fatally shot Kawaski Trawick were thrown out on a technicality, Sept. 28, 2023. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

By Yoav Gonen

On Friday afternoon, two days shy of the five-year anniversary of the police killing of Kawaski Trawick in The Bronx, the NYPD announced in a 259-word statement that Commissioner Edward Caban had decided the officers involved in the fatal shooting would face no discipline.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), an independent oversight body that investigates and prosecutes cases involving use of force by police officers, had sought last year to terminate officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis at an administrative trial for their roles in Trawick’s shooting death in April 2019.

Trawick had been cooking in his kitchen, holding a serrated knife and a long stick, at an apartment building that offered supportive services to its tenants, including for mental health challenges and substance abuse, when the officers arrived.

They had responded to 911 calls from the building, including one made by the 32-year-old dancer and personal trainer, who had been locked out of his apartment.

From his kitchen, Trawick asked them repeatedly why they had pushed into his apartment, but got no answer. Within two minutes of arriving, Thompson shot Trawick with a Taser, which prompted Trawick to move toward the officers for the first time.

Thompson then shot him four times.

The NYPD’s statement noted that because the CCRB had brought charges against the officers after the expiration of a statute of limitations, the only way the officers could be disciplined was if their conduct was deemed to be criminal.

Caban determined their actions hadn’t met that higher bar.

The statement also noted that the NYPD had turned over the body-worn camera footage from the incident to CCRB investigators in January 2021, “five months before the expiration of the statute of limitations governing disciplinary matters.”

The CCRB then had just five months to investigate the fatal shooting and file charges in order for normal disciplinary rules to apply, a deadline the board missed.

For its part, the NYPD’s Force Investigation Division had taken 21 months to conclude its own investigation of the fatal shooting, which found no wrongdoing by the two officers.

Caban’s determination took seven months, following a recommendation by an NYPD administrative judge in September that Thompson and Davis should face no discipline under the higher, criminal act bar.

But the administrative judge highlighted a number of significant concerns with the NYPD’s investigation of the incident, and wrote in her draft decision that she was left with “disquieting questions about FID’s conclusion that Respondent Thompson acted ‘consistent’ with ‘Department guidelines.’”

An article published months earlier by ProPublica revealed that FID investigators failed to ask key questions about the incident, including about discrepancies between what the officers said and what the video showed.

In a statement released shortly after Caban’s decision was made public, the parents of Trawick — Ellen and Rickie Trawick — decried the outcome. They had been advocating for nearly five years for both officers to be terminated.

“Thompson and Davis broke into my son’s home and murdered him within seconds, without even attempting to administer aid,” the statement said. “They should have already been fired, but Mayor Adams and the NYPD don’t seem to care about protecting New Yorkers from cops who kill.”

Davis, who several times during the encounter with Trawick sought to prevent Thompson from using his Taser and his gun, retired from the police force last month, according to, which aggregates information from public databases.

Thompson remains an active duty police officer, according to the site.

The NYPD’s statement on Caban’s decision said that withholding the video footage from the CCRB during the 21-month long Force Investigation Division probe was governed by a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies at the time.

That memo generally says the NYPD can’t refuse to disclose or delay the release of footage on the grounds that it’s conducting an investigation, but it contains a carveout specifically “for those investigations being conducted by the Force Investigation Division.”

That’s the unit that handles the most sensitive cases, in which civilians are killed or seriously injured by police.

This past December, the NYPD and CCRB signed a new memorandum, under which the department must share its body-worn camera footage and other documentation — even in FID cases —within 90 days of a request.

Gothamist reported that month, however, that the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s executive director acknowledged there are no penalties in place if the NYPD fails to meet that timeline.

This article was published by THE CITY on April 14, 2024.

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