Two years ago, a deeply troubled man was shot and killed in his own apartment by a police officer. Thursday, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board deemed the use of deadly force unjustified and called for Officer Brendan Thompson’s termination. We concur.
The killing of Kawaski Trawick was agonizing for many reasons. The 32-year-old, who had a lengthy history of mental problems, was like too many others long neglected by a city where people in psychological distress often fall through gaping cracks. Instead, Trawick’s difficulties seemingly worsened over the years; one night, after he locked himself out of his apartment, neighbors and building staff called 911 saying he was “acting erratically and threatening people.” By the time cops arrived, firefighters had already helped Trawick get back inside his home, responding to a 911 call he himself had made.
Officer body-cam video shamefully held until a year-and-a-half after the killing shows how the tragedy unfolded: Officers banged on Trawick’s door and, when it went slightly ajar, pushed it entirely open. As they stood in or just outside the apartment, Trawick, wearing underwear and boots and holding a serrated bread knife and then a stick, repeatedly asked “Why are you in my home?” Cops did not answer. They ordered him to put down the knife; he did not.
Without a warning — and even though his partner Herbert Davis, a more experienced officer, had advised him not to do it — Thompson then hit Trawick with a taser, leading him to start running toward the officers. At this point, just 112 seconds after they had forced their way in, Thompson fatally shot Trawick twice.
Clearly, anyone engaged in a heated confrontation with police should drop any implement they are wielding. But police have a simultaneous duty to attempt to deescalate encounters, including with troubled individuals, especially when they have forcibly entered a home.
An officer who should have helped defuse a heated situation did the opposite, killing a man. There must be firm disciplinary consequences.