Shouting match erupts after NYPD judge tries to toss charge against cops in fatal Bronx shooting

April 24, 2023
By Craig McCarthy
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemary Maldonaldo was on the bench during the Daniel Pantaleo trial in 2019.

An NYPD judge ruled to toss trespassing charges against the officers at the center of a fatal 2019 shooting in The Bronx — sparking a heated shouting match with attorneys for the city’s police watchdog before the cops’ disciplinary trialcould even get going on Monday.

The dramatic exchange between NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemary Maldonaldo and Civilian Complaint Review Board lawyer Andre Applewhite erupted just minutes into the first day of trial for Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis in the death of 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick. 

Applewhite expressed his dismay over the judge’s motion last week to dismiss the trespassing charge, the most minor rap against the officers, who still face allegations of unjust use of force and failure to render medical aid. 

“The CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board] plans to proceed with the charge so that the police commissioner can make an informed decision” about potential disciplinary action against the cops, the lawyer argued. 

But Maldonaldo wasn’t having it — taking the attorney to the mat and saying the CCRB, which is prosecuting the case, had blown the state’s statute of limitation for the charge.

“The CCRB let that slip and go by,” Maldonado tersely said after grilling Applewhite on the various dates required to stick to the statute of limitations. 

Applewhite repeatedly tried to interject, attempting to argue that the NYPD was to blame for the delay by dragging its feet in releasing bodycam footage from the incident — but was shot down each time by an increasingly frustrated Maldonaldo.

“Please be seated!” the judge eventually snapped.

“I will not be seated! CCRB will be heard on this matter!” Applewhite said as the judge slammed her gavel, calling for a five-minute recess to discuss the objections in her chambers.

While an NYPD judge can recommend a charge against a police officers should be dropped, only the commissioner can formally dismiss a rap after an internal trial is completed and the jurist’s recommendations are sent to the top cop’s office. 

When the proceeding resumed more than 20 minutes later, the judge said that she would be recommending that the trespassing charges for both officers be dropped.

Still, Maldonado acknowledged that the NYPD did not turn over the bodyworn cameras until January 2021,19 months after the fatal shooting. The CCRB voted to substantiate charges on June 9, 2021, just over four months after getting the evidence, but missed the deadline for bringing the trespassing rap by nine days.

The department also handed over the footage two months after the Bronx District Attorney’s Office publicly cleared the cops of criminality over the deadly encounter.

Following the initial fireworks, the trial continued by the book with the CCRB lawyers and police union attorney giving their opening statements. The court was then shown videos from the shooting — footage already publicly released and compiled by the Bronx DA’s office two years ago — as well as 911 and radio calls from that night.

Thompson, who sat in the courtroom Monday wearing a bulletproof vest over his uniform, is facing the most serious charge of excessive force, for allegedly using his Taser improperly, which CCRB attorneys say went against NYPD training and escalated the exchange with Trawick. 

“When confronted with Mr. Trawick, the officer ignored their training of de-escalation,” CCRB lawyer Brian Arthur said in his opening statements, adding, “Instead of de-escalating they provoked the situation.”

Thomspon’s more experienced partner, Davis, had repeatedly told the young cop not to use force on Trawick as the man stood next to his stove in his apartment wearing boxes, a robe and boots while holding a bread knife and stick.

Attorneys for the cops argued that the trial was a “political” show that was unnecessary since the cops had been cleared by the former police commissioner, Dermot Shea, the NYPD’s internal force investigations unit and the Bronx DA. 

“He’s already been exonerated,” Police Benevolent Association lawyer Michael Martinez said in his opening remarks. “They were put in a bad situation and committed no misconduct.”

“We don’t require them to die,” Martinez said, arguing Thompson had to open fire when Trawick “bum-rushed” the cops after he was Tased.

The two cops had responded to the apartment building, a supportive housing unit known to cops for people with mental issues or drug problems, on April 14, 2019. Residents had called 911 saying Trawick had become irate that his super wouldn’t let him back in his apartment after he was locked out and threatened to “punch” him in the face, according to video and emergency calls presented Monday. 

After a few minutes of yelling in the hallways, which sparked three 911 calls by a security guard and the super for harassment, Trawick eventually called the fire department, claiming a blaze had broken out. 

The security guard told the emergency dispatcher after Trawick’s call that there was no fire and that Trawick was “losing his mind.”

When the FDNY arrived, the situation had appeared to calm down and firefighters smashed Trawick’s door to let him back into his home.

A few minutes later, after interviewing the security guard and superintendent, two cops knocked on Trawick’s broken door and pushed it open, according to video shown at the trial.

Davis can be seen pulling his baton, and Thompson immediately grabs his Taser from his holster. Davis can be heard telling his partner not to use the stun gun as he ordered Trawick to drop the knife. 

Trawick continues to ask the cops why they were in his apartment and told them he had the knife because he was cooking, according to the footage.

Thompson then fires his Taser — with no warning to Trawick or Davis — and the two enter the apartment.

Before they can get cuffs on Trawick, the man jumps up in an erratic state, yelling, “Get out! Get out!” to the officers.

Thompson pulls his firearm and Davis can be seen pushing it down as Trawick continues to yell and jump around. 

Trawick then runs at the officers, yelling “I’m going to kill you all,” and Thompson fires three times, striking Trawick twice. 

In the moments after the shooting, bodycam footage shows Davis holding the door as Thompson is heard in the hallway ordering another emotional resident, an admitted veteran who appeared to be triggered by the gunfire, back into his apartment.

CCRB attorneys argue the video proves the cops should be found guilty of delaying calls for medical attention and not trying to save Trawick’s life in the immediate aftermath — with Davis later commenting over the radio that “just a perp” was shot. 

Richard Murray — an attorney for Davis, who also wore a bulletproof vest under his uniform in court, — countered that Trawick could not be saved, with one of the gunshots proving fatal within a minute.

The first day of trial ended with the CCRB lawyers playing the radio call with the “perp” comment from Davis, who stared pensively at the courtroom TV, shifting between being hunched over with his chin resting on his folded hands and leaning back with his arms crossed.

An attorney for the PBA said both cops were wearing their vests in court to show they remain on full-duty. 

The trial will resume on Tuesday only with the testimony of the city medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Trawick.


Topics: Kawaski Trawick