HONOLULU (AP) – A police officer has been charged with murder and two officers charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy, Honolulu prosecutors said on Tuesday.
The charges come after a grand jury last week refused to indict the same three officers in the shooting that killed Iremamber Sykap on April 5.
Geoffrey HL Thom has been charged with one count of second degree murder.
Zackary K. Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces have each been charged with one count of attempted second degree murder.
Thom is a five year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department. Ah Nee and Fredeluces served in the department for three and 10 years, respectively.
All three officers face life in prison without parole if found guilty. A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Thom said he was not taking calls. The numbers listed for Ah Nee and Fredeluces could not be found immediately.
Agents will be on duty
Acting Honolulu Police Department chief Rade Vanic said he was surprised by the prosecutor’s decision to press charges after a grand jury decided not to charge.
“This is very unusual, and we are not aware of any similar action that has been taken in the past. Pending the court ruling, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we always have.” , he said in a statement. .
Officers will have their policing powers removed and they will be assigned to clerical duties.
Malcolm Lutu, the president of the union of state police officers, said in a statement: “We continue to trust the process and will continue to support our officers.”
Authorities will not release body camera footage
Police said Sykap was driving a stolen Honda linked to an armed robbery, burglary, bag snatching and car theft and led officers to a chase ahead of the shooting.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Van Marter said in court documents that Thom fired 10 shots into the Honda’s rear window “without provocation”. Eight of the shots hit Sykap, injuring his neck, neck, upper back and left arm. Sykap was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.
Fredeluces fired a shot but didn’t hit Sykap, he said.
Van Marter said that although Thom claimed the Honda crashed into his patrol car, body camera footage did not show it. Thom’s patrol car suffered “a few minor paint chips and a few black scratches,” Van Marter said.
He said Ah Nee repeatedly shot Mark Sykap, Iremamber’s brother who was also in the car. Mark Sykap was shot in the right shoulder and right hand.
Police refused to release the officer’s body camera footage during the shooting.
The teenager’s family filed a complaint
Matt Dvonch, special advocate for Honolulu District Attorney Steve Alm, said it was not uncommon for prosecutors to ask a judge to find the probable cause that a crime was likely committed after a grand jury refused to charge a person.
He said the prosecution offered no new evidence for the case it did not have when the case went to the grand jury.
Eric Seitz, a lawyer representing Sykap’s family in a civil lawsuit against the city and still unidentified police officers, said he was happy prosecutors were pursuing the case.
“We suspected from the start, when we started to get information about the course of events, that the shooting was completely unwarranted,” he said. “Now that we have seen the additional evidence contained and attached to the charges, there is no doubt in our mind that this was an event that could and should have been avoided.”
The family’s lawsuit alleges negligence, assault and battery. He is asking a state court to award damages, reimburse costs and declare that the officers’ use of lethal force was illegal and unauthorized.
Jacquie Esser, a deputy state public defender not involved in the case, said it is essential that the police be held accountable when they use excessive force and kill unarmed people or if she makes a mistake.
“This is a big step towards accountability, which is essential for the community’s confidence in their policing system,” she said.
The three policemen were due to appear in court on June 25.