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Prosecutor Charges Officers After Grand Jury Refuses To Indict Them For Death Of 16 Year Old

Honolulu, HI – Three Honolulu police officers are facing murder and attempted murder charges in connection with an April officer-involved shooting just days after they were cleared by a grand jury in the same incident.

The incident occurred at about 4:42 p.m. on April 5 after Honolulu police officers spotted a white Honda Civic at Kawaikui Beach in East Honolulu that had been reported stolen two days earlier, The Washington Post reported.

“The car was allegedly connected to several offenses, including an armed robbery, a purse snatching and a theft,” according to the criminal complaint against the officers.

Officers tried to pull over the vehicle when it left the park but the driver fled, The Washington Post reported.

A high-speed pursuit ensued and went on for 10 minutes until police managed to box the Honda in at a red traffic light.

Honolulu Police Officer Zackary K. Ah Nee pulled his cruiser in front of the suspect vehicle, effectively blocking it in, The Washington Post reported.

A second police vehicle occupied by Honolulu Police Officers Geoffrey H.L. Thom and Christopher J. Fredeluces pulled up alongside the Honda Civic’s driver’s door.

Yet another police car stopped behind the suspect, The Washington Post reported.

When Officers Thom and Fredeluces got out of their vehicle by the driver’s door, two passengers jumped out of the car and fled on foot.

The officers ordered the driver – 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap – and his brother, 18-year-old Mark Sykap, to get out of the Honda, The Washington Post reported.

Charging documents said Officer Fredeluces “had drawn his firearm and was pointing it at the interior” of the stolen vehicle.

Officer Thom pointed his weapon at the car while Officer Ah Nee, who had drawn his service weapon as well, tried to open the driver’s door, The Washington Post reported.

The door was locked and a second later, Officer Thom opened fire on the vehicle.

Prosecutors alleged in charging documents that “Thom, without provocation, started firing his firearm into the rear window of the white Honda,” The Washington Post reported.

The complaint said Officer Thom fired 10 rounds into the vehicle.

Officer Fredeluces also fired his weapon, but his single round went into the door and did not strike the driver, The Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors said Iremamber Sykap was hit multiple times.

“The gunshot wound to the back of the head fractured Iremamber’s skull and entered his brain,” the complaint read. “One of the two shots to the back of Iremamber’s neck fractured his spine. One of the four gunshot wounds to Iremamber’s back lacerated his aorta — a through-and-through fatal wound. Iremamber also suffered extreme internal bleeding due to gunshot wounds to his left lung.”

The Honda was in drive when its 16-year-old driver was shot, and it started rolling forward and ran into a police cruiser, The Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors said that was when Officer Ah Nee opened fire on the suspect’s vehicle and “without provocation, fired four shots.”

Charging documents said two of Officer Ah Nee’s bullets struck Mark Sykap in the shoulder and the hand.

The Honda continued up onto the sidewalk, through a fence, and into a canal, The Washington Post reported.

The brothers were both transported to the hospital for treatment.

Mark Sykap was released later that night and Iremamber Sykap was pronounced dead at the hospital, The Washington Post reported.

Charging documents said Officer Ah Nee told investigators that he saw the “butt of a firearm on the lap of the front seat passenger.”

However, prosecutors pointed to bodycam video from the incident that showed a “thin square object on his lap, which does not resemble a firearm,” The Washington Post reported.

Sykap’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Honolulu Police Department in May that alleged the officers had been harassing or threatening the teens in the stolen car.

On June 9, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm presented the evidence in the case to an Oahu grand jury and asked them to indict all three officers, The Washington Post reported.

But the grand jury declined to bring charges against any of the three officers who fired their weapon that day.

But that didn’t matter to the prosecutor’s office, The Washington Post reported.

Alm brought charges against all three officers on June 15, HNN reported.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the defendants’ use of deadly force in this case was unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified under the law,” the complaint read.

Officer Thom was charged with second-degree murder, The Washington Post reported.

Officers Ah Nee and Fredeluces were both charged with second-degree attempted murder.

“If convicted, the officers will each serve mandatory minimum prison terms of 20 years without the possibility of parole due to their use of semi-automatic firearms in connection with the alleged offenses,” prosecutors said.

The move shocked the local law enforcement community, HNN reported.

“We are surprised by the Prosecuting Attorney’s announcement to seek charges against the officers after a grand jury comprised of citizens decided not to indict them,” Honolulu Police Interim Chief Rade Vanic said. “This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past. While we await the court’s decision, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we have always done.”

Legal experts also called the move highly unusual, HNN reported.

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a prosecutor present a case to the grand jury, get rejected, and then turn around and tried to take it to preliminary hearing,” attorney Victor Bakke said.

Even the public defender said she was surprised by Alm’s move, HNN reported.

“I’m sort of shocked. I was not expecting this at all,” Deputy Public Defender Jacquie Esser said.

But Esser also said she was glad the case didn’t die with the grand jury.

“The officers shot 10 times to the back of the car,” she told HNN. “If you look at the bullet trajectory, it’s all to the back of the head multiple times which shows an intent to kill.”

All three officers are due back in court for an initial appearance on June 25.

The police department said all three officers would be placed on desk duty and stripped of their police powers while their cases moved forward, HNN reported.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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