The family of an unarmed 16-year-old boy shot and killed by police last month filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers who allegedly opened fire at the car he was driving while it was at a complete stop on Kalakaua Avenue.
On April 5, 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap was shot and killed after police said he drove a stolen Honda Civic at a barricade on Kalakaua Avenue following a crime spree. But attorney Eric A. Seitz, who is representing Sykap’s grandmother Akiwine Sykap and mother, Yovita Lucio, said witness statements and video evidence from an officer’s body camera shows the car was at a complete stop when officers standing to the side and rear of the vehicle fired into it, killing Sykap.
“We know enough based upon what we were told by people who were witnesses, what we have seen now in the video released earlier this week is enough to believe the shooting was entirely unnecessary and unwarranted, and the death of this 16-year-old child was something that could have and should have been prevented under existing policies of the Police Department,” Seitz said. The suit seeks unspecified damages for the Sykap family.
Seitz, who has five other wrongful death lawsuits pending against HPD and the city, said the officials have not shared any evidence with him or the Sykap family. Honolulu police officers are threatening Iremamber Sykap’s older sisters, Kaimi Sykap and Siwinia Sykap, his grandmother, mother, friends and family members, he said.
A police officer randomly calls the Sykap home and identifies himself as a sergeant, then says if Iremamber Sykap’s brother, Maruo, does not turn himself in, he too might end up shot and killed, Seitz said.
Police showed up at Sykap’s memorial service, and stop by the family home to make threats, according to Seitz, who asked for the threats to stop.
Kaimi Sykap and Siwinia Sykap said that plainclothes officers approached them at the memorial site on Kalakaua Avenue and told them they would start arresting them if they did not stop protesting. “I buried my brother on my son’s fourth birthday. I’m emotionally and physically drained. This system is so corrupted,” said Siwinia Sykap. “Do you guys have evidence it was him? He’s not a criminal; he stopped. If you guys say he’s a criminal, show us what you guys got.”
Police Chief Susan Ballard and Assistant Chief Rade Vanic did not respond to questions sent to a spokeswoman about allegations that police officers are threatening and intimidating the Sykap family. The department declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation. Prosecuting attorney Steven S. Alm, who is overseeing an independent investigation of the shooting, declined to comment on the lawsuit or allegations that police officers are intimidating the Sykap family.
Alm’s office also declined the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s request for body camera footage from the shooting, citing an ongoing investigation.
“Disclosure of this information will impair the Department’s ability to conduct these investigations, frustrate the legitimate government function of maintaining an untainted jury pool in the event that criminal charges are brought in these matters, and may impact the right to a fair trial for potential defendants,” prosecutors wrote in denying the Star-Advertiser’s request.
Honolulu police also declined to release body camera footage from the shooting.
The Sykap investigation will be done in 25-55 days, according to a timeline released Monday by Alm’s office, at which time prosecutors will release some evidence from the case. The complaint alleges that defendants Officers Nos. 1, 2 and 3 “unlawfully used deadly force when they discharged their firearms from the side and rear of the vehicle while it was stopped and then continued firing at the vehicle and its passengers as it lurched into a ditch, collectively firing more than a dozen rounds and ultimately killing I.S.”
“The Defendants’ use of deadly force was unnecessary, unwarranted, and unjustified and in violation of applicable policies and practices of HPD and laws of the State of Hawaii,” according to the complaint. Seitz urged Alm to expedite his office’s investigation into the shooting. He said the only evidence the city has turned over is a death certificate certifying that Sykap’s death was a homicide and he died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The family alleges that since Sykap died police “repeatedly have made false and misleading statements about the relevant events, have taunted and threatened Plaintiffs and other members of Plaintiffs’ extended family, and repeatedly have failed and refused to provide any videos or explanation.”
The family wants the release of all body camera footage, the autopsy report, dispatch transcripts and all evidence connected to the alleged crime spree and fatal shooting.
“My concern is that these police officers are somewhat scared,” Seitz said. “I think they know there is a reckoning to be had here, and they are doing everything they can to be intimidating and threatening to this family.”