Kawaski Trawick: Calls for answers after police kill black bisexual man

Kawaski Trawick, topless and smiling

New York police are being called on to release body cam footage and more information about the death of Kawaski Trawick, a black bisexual dancer who was shot dead in his own home by an officer.

Trawick was killed on April 14 when a police officer fired four shots into his chest at his apartment in the Bronx, New York.

The 32-year-old was part of the local ballroom scene and had been living in Hill House, a supportive housing unit.

In the days and weeks since, calls for the New York Police Department to release more information about the circumstances of Trawick’s death have intensified.

Jason Walker, an organiser with the HIV/AIDS support group Vocal NY, said that it has “been over a week without full transparency or accountability from the NYPD.”

“Kawaski Travick was a 32-year-old black gay man who loved to vogue and dance,” he told Gay City News.

“Kawaski Travick was a 32-year-old black gay man who loved to vogue and dance.”

—Jason Walker, Vocal NY

“He came to New York City looking for opportunity and he should be with us today. Instead he is dead.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who acts as New York City’s ombudsman, has said that he will be requesting body cam footage “to more fully understand what transpired.”

“Transparency is a powerful tool, and it is clear to me that we need full transparency regarding this incident,” Williams told The City.

Timeline of Kawaski Trawick’s death

Trawick was killed after a night of conflicting phone calls to the emergency services.

The first people to arrive at Hill House at 11.06pm were members of the New York Fire Department.

They responded to a 911 call from Trawick, who said he had been locked out of his apartment where there was food cooking on the hob. The firefighters left after letting the dancer back into his home.

Less than 10 minutes later, police officers arrived after a separate call from Hill House’s superintendent and a security guard, who said that Trawick was banging on neighbour’s doors armed with a knife and a long wooden stick.

Kawaski Trawick before his death. (Facebook)

Two officers spoke with Trawick for less than two minutes before tasering him, The City reported.

Police told the outlet that he fell, got up and charged at them with the knife and stick, prompting one of the officers to fire his gun.

Trawick was declared dead at 11.46pm.

Diverging stories surround Death of Kawaski Trawick

While some neighbours have corroborated the official version of events, others have questioned whether the police story is wholly accurate.

“Reports from the local community in the Bronx and those on the scene suggest Kawaski was not a threat to anyone when police arrived at his building,” Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for the police watchdog group Communities United for Police Reform, told Gay City News.

“Instead, he was in his room, possibly in a state of emotional distress. His death was preventable.”

She added: “In recent years, there have been far too many cases of emotionally distressed black New Yorkers and other people of colour dying at the hands of NYPD officers.”

“His death was preventable.”

— Carolyn Martinez-Class, Communities United for Police Reform

A close friend, Anthony Smallwood, told the New York Post that Trawick had been acting unlike himself in the days leading up to his death.

“Like yesterday, he was yelling and screaming. He had a knife in his hand, but he said it was for protection,” he told the Post. Another friend, Victor Jennings, told the publication that Trawick had been struggling with his mental wellbeing and had been using drugs.

Vocal NY activist Walker said, speaking to local news channel NY1: “This was an individual who was experiencing emotional distress and he needed help and not a bullet to the chest.”

So far police have not released the body cam footage or the names of the officers involved in the killing.