Investigators didn’t ask key questions of cops who killed Kawasaki Trawick – ProPublica

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Investigators didn’t ask key questions of cops who killed Kawasaki Trawick – ProPublica

In the spring of 2019, two New York City police officers entered Kawasaki Trawick’s apartment in the Bronx. The 32-year-old personal trainer and dancer called 911 after locking himself out.

But 112 seconds after they arrived, the footage shows one of the officers shoot Trawick, despite the officer’s more experienced partner repeatedly telling him not to use force.

When an internal investigation later cleared the officers — saying “no wrongdoing was found” — the NYPD gave no explanation as to why. But records obtained by ProPublica can now reveal how the department reached that conclusion.

Investigators never looked into key conversations between the two officers in the run-up to the shooting. They also never contacted the police when their accounts contradicted the video evidence.

“Any conversation between you and your partner?” the head of the investigative division, Constable Herbert Davis, asked hours after the shooting.

“No,” Davis replied.

Excerpt from an interview with Officer Herbert Davis

Officer Herbert Davis told NYPD investigators that he did not speak to his partner before the partner, Officer Brendan Thompson, struck and then killed Kawasaki Trawick. This testimony is contradicted by a video recording of the event.

That was not true.

After arriving at Trawick’s apartment to find him holding a stick and a bread knife, the camera footage shows Davis, who is black, told his less experienced white partner, Officer Brendan Thompson, not to use his Taser blow. “Don’t, don’t, don’t,” he said, motioning for Thompson to back off.

Thompson fired his Taser anyway, making Trawick angry, and Davis then tried to stop Thompson from shooting Trawick. “No, no, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” Davis said before briefly pushing Thompson’s gun.

Investigators had access to all of that footage. They never asked any of the officers about it.

Lucas Waldron and Maya Eliahu/ProPublica

ProPublica obtained the full NYPD internal investigation, including audio tapes of interviews with the two officers, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents and interviews provide a rare window into exactly how the police department scrutinizes the behavior of its own officers after a shooting. The newly released information also expands the public record of the Trawick case, as the New York City Board of Civil Appeals filed disciplinary charges against the two officers for trespassing into Trawick’s apartment and failing to render aid after he was shot. Thompson faces additional charges for the use of force.

The officers are contesting the allegations in an ongoing administrative proceeding. Neither their attorneys nor their union responded to requests for comment for this story, but Thompson told police investigators that before he shot Trawick, “I feared for my safety.” The NYPD did not respond to ProPublica’s detailed questions or to a request for an interview with Deputy Chief Kevin Maloney, the former head of the investigative division who questioned both officers. He is scheduled to testify in the administrative trial on Thursday.

The NYPD’s investigative division, which conducted the investigation into Trawick’s death, was created after Eric Garner’s murder and focuses on officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

“You’ve put in some of your best investigators,” then-Commissioner William Bratton said in 2015 when he launched the unit. “I’m going to get a better investigation, a quick investigation, a more comprehensive investigation.”

The investigation into Trawick’s murder took nearly two years. The two officers, Thompson and Davis, were interviewed once each for about 30 minutes. (Bratton, who stepped down as commissioner in 2016, did not respond to a request for comment.)

In the files, investigators often refer to Trawick as “the perpetrator,” although it’s unclear whether he committed any crime — he called 911 after locking himself out of his apartment. They also repeatedly portray Trawick as effectively to blame for what happened.

“Due to the perpetrator becoming more agitated by the presence of the officers, Officer Thompson had activated his stun gun,” an investigator wrote.

An excerpt from a document from the NYPD’s internal investigation into the officer-involved shooting of a Kawasaki Trawick.

Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request; highlighted by ProPublica

Trawick struggled with his mental health and with drugs. A security guard at the building also called 911, saying Trawick was acting erratically.

But by the time officers arrived, Trawick had already been let back into his apartment by the fire department. “Why are you in my house?” he repeatedly asked the police.

The interview sessions included a number of false and misleading statements made by employees.

For example, Davis told investigators that Thompson fired his Taser after Trawick began “taking a step forward like he was going to catch up to us.” But the footage shows Trawick making no headway as Thompson, holding his gun in one hand and Taser in the other, uses his Taser on Trawick without any warning.

Thompson recalled that after using the Taser, he again tried to warn Trawick. “I tell him to drop the knife you know, many times.” The footage shows no such warnings were given between the time Thompson used his Taser and when he fired four times, killing Trawick.

Excerpt from an interview with Constable Brendan Thompson

Thompson told NYPD investigators that both he and Davis warned Trawick to drop his knife before Thompson fired four times, but video footage of the incident shows no such warnings were given in the moments before the shooting.

Investigators never followed up. Other than asking the officers if they were wearing body cameras, investigators never questioned Thompson and Davis about any of the footage.

“It’s huge, they intentionally did it,” said John Baeza, a former detective who spent 16 years with the NYPD and now works as an expert. “It must be an intention not to question them about it.”

Investigators found no wrongdoing, even when confronted with apparent protocol violations.

Thompson, for example, told investigators he considered Trawick an “emotionally disturbed” person. The NYPD’s patrol manual says officers facing a potentially dangerous person in crisis should “isolate and detain” them — that text is underlined — and should “immediately request a response from a supervisor and emergency services “.

Neither Thompson nor Davis did.

At one point, lead investigator Maloney asked Davis why they didn’t call for help. “We didn’t feel like we needed anybody yet,” Davis replied. “We didn’t know how bad it was until we opened the door.” Investigators did not raise the issue.

A former NYPD detective who helped create de-escalation training for the department previously told ProPublica that Davis and Thompson might just close the door and call in the special unit.

The timing and circumstances of the interviews were also important. While Davis was interviewed just hours after the shooting, Thompson was interviewed roughly seven months later and, he said during the interview, was given the body-worn camera footage to watch first. Advocates and many experts say officers should not be allowed to review footage of incidents before speaking to investigators in case the officers try to change their testimony.

Although the NYPD allowed the officer who shot Trawick to view the tape during the investigation, the department has long refused to show it to the public or the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The department has withheld footage for more than a year and is fighting a lawsuit that wanted the full tape, arguing that releasing it would hinder the department’s investigation.

A state judge later ruled that the NYPD illegally withheld footage and acted “in bad faith.”

When the full footage was released, it showed what happened in the minutes after the shooting. After a sergeant arrived and asked if anyone was injured, two officers responded almost in unison, “No one. Just a criminal.

The Bronx district attorney is investigating the shooting but has declined to press charges.

Ultimately, NYPD investigators summed up their findings with a simple line: “There was no violation of department policy.”

Asked about the investigation, Trawick’s mother, Ellen Trawick, called it “outrageous.” The details, she said, “show that the NYPD didn’t even try to do a real investigation.”

The disciplinary process against the two police officers should be completed in the coming days. But regardless of the decision of the NYPD judge overseeing him, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell has sole authority over what punishment, if any, to impose.

Do you have information about body-worn cameras and the police that we should know about? Contact Mike Hayes by email at [email protected] and on Signal or WhatsApp at 203-364-7120. Contact Eric Umansky at [email protected] and on Signal or WhatsApp at 917-687-8406

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