Community members and advocates are demanding answers after a Black queer man was shot and killed by police officers while at his apartment in the Bronx, New York.
On April 14, 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick called 911 and said that he was locked out of his apartment at Hill House, a social services center for people with mental health issues and addiction and that his apartment was on fire. The New York Fire Department (NYFD) responded to the scene around 10:50 p.m. and forced the door open, but determined the apartment was not on fire.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said that it received two 911 calls from Trawick’s neighbors, who claimed he was threatening people and banging on doors with a large stick. Two officers arrived at the residential building at around 11 p.m. and were escorted by the building super to Trawick’s apartment on the fourth floor.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said that the officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident. The officers knocked on the apartment door, which opened on its own. Monahan said the bodycam footage showed Trawick holding a large kitchen knife in one hand “and what appeared to be a full-size, broom handle wrapped in black tape in the other hand.”
After Trawick reportedly failed to comply with the officers’ commands to drop the items in his hands, one of the officers deployed a Taser, causing him to fall to the ground.
“As the officers moved inside the apartment to disarm [the] suspect and take him into custody he suddenly jumped to his feet and charged at the officers from a short distance — still with the knife and broom handle in his hands,” Monahan said, according to remarks provided to The North Star by the NYPD.
The officers reportedly exited the apartment, but Trawick moved “quickly” toward them. Then one of the officers discharged his gun four times, striking Trawick in the chest. Trawick was transported to Bronx Lebanon Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:46 p.m., police said.
Monahan said that the officers, who were not injured, were taken to an area hospital for observation and later released. The NYPD did not answer inquiries regarding the release of the officers’ names or the bodycam footage.
Trawick’s family and friends are now asking why he was shot and killed by police officers. “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,” Trawick’s father Ricky Trawick, told THE CITY.
Advocates are demanding that authorities release the name of the officers involved and the camera footage, and that the Bronx district attorney conduct a “thorough, transparent and timely investigation of the killing of Kawaski, and the actions of NYPD and Hill House personnel that resulted in Kawaski being killed,” Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), said in a statement to The North Star.
Vocal NY organizer Jason Walker questioned why officers did not use de-escalation techniques with Trawick. “This was an individual who was experiencing emotional distress and he needed help and not a bullet to the chest,” Walker told NY1.
Statistics on police brutality show that Black people are much more likely to face police violence. This is also true for people with mental illnesses. In 2016, Vox reported that people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians.
Martinez-Class told The North Star that there were “many unanswered questions” about Trawick’s death, but that one thing remained clear: “Kawaski should still be alive today.”
“Kawaski was a Black gay man who was beloved by many,” Martinez-Class said. “In recent years, there have been far too many cases of Black New Yorkers and other people of color perceived to be in emotional distress dying at the hands of NYPD officers.”
Martinez-Class added, “Kawaski was in his room and not a threat to anyone when police arrived at his building. His death was preventable.”
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.