Words and photographs provided by Jake Nill
From being locked out of his apartment to being murdered by the NYPD, what happened to Kawaski Trawick last month? As reported in Out Magazine, people who are black, queer, and facing mental illness are statistically more likely to experience violence and death by the hands of the police. Given that Trawick was all three, his killing showcases a disturbing reality that marginalized people with intersecting identities like him must face every day.
On April 14, Trawick got locked out of his Bronx apartment. With food cooking on the stove, he feared his apartment was on fire and called 9-1-1-1 according to a report in the Daily News. Firefighters arrived at 10:53 PM, broke his door open and left at 10:59, with the apartment intact.
Seven minutes later two NYPD officers barged through Trawick’s door. Apparently, while Trawick could not get into his home, someone else also called 9-1-1, reporting that he was banging on doors and harassing neighbors. He lived in Hill House, a housing program that provides supportive services for New Yorkers facing addiction, domestic violence, and mental health issues.
Influenced by this dangerous narrative – that Trawick was violent rather than distressed — the police duo forced their way into Trawick’s apartment while he was still going through emotional turmoil. Upon seeing him holding a knife and stick, officers demanded that he drop what was in his hands. When he did not comply, the police tased him. He fell to the ground, but was able to get back up. At that point, one of the unnamed officers fired four shots; three of which hit him. At 11:46 that night Trawick—a dance instructor and member of New York City’s LGBTQ+ ballroom scene—was declared dead at Bronx Lebanon Hospital.
The two officers at the scene allege that Trawick lunged at them. Holding on to this claim, the NYPD has refused to release the body camera footage or the names of the officers involved from the fatal night. Without that footage, it remains difficult to unravel the conflicting reports of what happened that night. Additionally, New York City’s Human Resources Administration—the contractor to Hill House—has a “confidential incident report” on the night’s tragic events but refuses to release it.
Since his murder, local community members and activist are mourning Trawick’s death and demanding full transparency about the circumstances of his killing. City Council members Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx) and Donovan Richards, as well as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., have voiced their views about the ways the various systems failed Trawick.
CUNY students have also gotten involved. On Tuesday, organizers of #Justice4Kawaski on social media and VOCAL New York will host a campaign teach-in at City College. The meeting will cover the events that unfolded that night, identify the injustices Trawick faced before and after his death, and equip everyone on what to do next in demanding full transparency. This event in collaboration with CCNY’s LGBT+ Open Alliance Club and will take place from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm in the City College Safe Space (North Academic Center 101/B next to the Hoffman Ballroom).
CCNY senior Jake Nill president of City College’s LGBT+ Open Alliance Club, an intern at VOCAL-NY, and an active member of Queerocracy.