Honolulu prosecutor charges officers with murder despite grand jury decision

Honolulu prosecutor charges officers with murder despite grand jury decision
© Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney

Three police officers in Honolulu were charged with murder and attempted murder in the shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap despite a grand jury decision not to the indict the officers in relation to the killing.

The office of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm announced in a statement on Tuesday that the officers — Geoffrey Thom, 42; Zackary Ah Nee, 26; and Christopher Fredeluces, 40 — will be charged in connection with the April shooting. 

Thom, a five-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, was charged with one count of second-degree murder.

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He faces life behind bars with the possibility of parole if convicted. 

Nee and Fredeluces — three-year and 10-year veterans of the force, respectively — have both been charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder. They could also see life in prison with the possibility of parole, prosecutors said in a statement.

According to The Associated Press, the charges stem from the April 5 shooting of Sykap and come just days after a grand jury decided against indicting the three officers in the incident.

Though local police have reportedly refused to release footage of the incident, officials claim the shooting took place after police pursued Sykap in a car chase. At the time, police reportedly said Sykap was driving a Honda that was tied to robbery, theft and purse snatching, among other offenses.

Prosecutors said Thom shot Sykap at least eight times through the rear window “without provocation,” the news agency reported. He sustained injuries in his head, neck, back and arm before he was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterward. 

Prosecutors also allege Fredeluces fired a shot during the incident and that Ah Nee repeatedly shot at Mark Sykap, Iremamber Sykap’s brother, who was also been present in the vehicle.

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The officers are being placed on desk duty while court proceedings continue.

Interim Honolulu Police Department Chief Rade Vanic reportedly expressed surprise about the recent charges brought against the officers despite the grand jury's decision. 

“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,” he told the AP.

However, attorney Eric Seitz, whom the Sykaps retained for a civil suit, has lauded prosecutors for picking up the case.

“We have suspected from the beginning when we began to get information about how the events unfolded, that the shooting was entirely unjustified,” he told the AP.

“Now that we’ve seen the further evidence that’s contained and attached to the charges, there’s no question in our minds that this was an event that could have been and should have been prevented,” he added.