Six days after an Oahu grand jury declined to charge three Honolulu police officers in the shooting death of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap, Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm charged one officer with second-degree murder and two others with second-degree attempted murder in complaints filed today in District Court.
The three were charged in connection with the death of the Micronesian teen, the alleged driver of a stolen Honda Civic who led police on a pursuit that began in East Honolulu and ended when officers opened fire on Kalakaua Avenue near Philip Street on April 5.
The indictments shocked police, who believed the grand jury decision would stand.
“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. This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past,” said HPD interim Chief Rade K. Vanic, in a press release. “While we await the court’s decision, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we have always done.”
The three officers will have their police powers removed, and they will be assigned to desk duty.
The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers held a news conference last week saying the grand jury’s decision validated the actions of the officers who shot at Sykap.
“We continue to trust the process and will continue to stand by our officers,” said Malcolm Lutu, SHOPO president, in a news release.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, in a statement, said his office does not get involved in law enforcement investigations or court proceedings but recognizes the seriousness of the situation and the community interest.
“The complaints against three Honolulu Police Officers involved in the April 5 incident are a very serious matter. As stated previously, the Mayor’s Office does not involve itself with law enforcement investigations or court proceedings. I fully understand and recognize this is a very difficult situation for everyone involved in this case,” said Blangiardi in a statement. “We await both sides making their arguments in court, consequently I have no further comment at this time.”
Geoffrey H.L. Thom, 42, a five-year HPD veteran, was charged with one count of second-degree murder for allegedly firing 10 rounds into the rear window of the Civic as it sat idle shortly after 5 p.m. on April 5. Eight of Thom’s shots hit Sykap, according to the complaint.
Rounds fired from Thom’s 9mm Glock semiautomatic handgun hit Sykap in the back of the head, two rounds hit him in the back of the neck, four shots hit him in the upper back and one hit his left arm, according to the criminal complaint.
One of the four shots severed Sykap’s aorta, a “through and through fatal wound,” according to the complaint.
If convicted, Thom will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Zackary K. Ah Nee, 26, a three-year HPD veteran, and his partner Christopher J. Fredeluces, 40, who has 10 years of service with HPD, were both charged with one count of second-degree attempted murder.
The pair, along with Thom and other officers, pursued Sykap from Kawaikui Beach Park to Kalakaua Avenue before the teen stopped the car on Kalakaua Avenue near Philip Street, the complaint says. Thom and Fredeluces pulled up to the driver’s side of the Civic, and Ah Nee pulled in front of the vehicle.
They demanded the occupants of the car get out. Two exited the vehicle and ran.
With Ah Nee on the passenger’s side, Fredeluces on the driver’s side and Thom behind the vehicle, Thom fired into the car from behind and Fredeluces fired into the driver’s side door above the handle, according to the complaint.
After the initial volley of shots, the Civic lurched forward and struck Ah Nee’s patrol car. Ah Nee fired four shots into the car as it went over the sidewalk, through a fence and into the canal. The rounds hit Iremamber’s brother Mark Sykap in the right rear shoulder and the left hand, according to court documents.
If convicted, Ah Nee and Fredeluces face mandatory sentences of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The District Court issued a summons compelling the three officers to make an initial court appearance on June 25, according to a news release from the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Following their initial appearance, a preliminary hearing will be set.
Evidence, like footage from the body-worn cameras and ballistics reports, will be introduced at the preliminary hearing but will not be released to the public before then.
Thom, Ah Nee, and Fredeluces are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, Alm said in the news release.