3 Honolulu police officers charged in killing of 16-year-old

Audrey Mcavoy
Associated Press

Honolulu — A police officer was charged with murder and two others were charged with attempted murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy, Honolulu prosecutors said Tuesday.

It comes after a grand jury last week declined to indict the officers in the shooting that killed Iremamber Sykap on April 5. Police have said Sykap was driving a stolen Honda linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse snatching and car theft and led officers on a chase before the shooting.

Officer Geoffrey H.L. Thom fired 10 rounds into the rear window of the Honda “without provocation,” Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter said in court documents. Eight of the shots hit Sykap in the back of the head, back of the neck, upper back and left arm. Sykap died at a hospital.

FILE - In this April 28, 2021, file photo, a stuffed bear sits with other tributes at a street memorial where Honolulu Police shot and killed 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap, whose nickname was Baby, during a car chase on Kalakaua Ave., in Honolulu.

Officer Christopher Fredeluces fired one shot but did not hit Sykap, Van Marter said.

The prosecutor said that while Thom claimed the Honda rammed his patrol car, body-camera footage didn’t show that. Thom’s patrol car sustained “a few minor paint chips and some black scuffmarks,” Van Marter said.

He said Officer Zackary K. Ah Nee fired multiple times at Mark Sykap, the slain boy’s brother who was also in the car. Mark Sykap suffered gunshot wounds in his right shoulder and right hand.

Police have refused to release body-camera footage from the shooting.

Thom was charged with one count of second-degree murder. Ah Nee and Fredeluces were each charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder. If convicted, each faces life in prison with the possibility of parole.

A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Thom said he was not taking calls. Listed numbers for Ah Nee and Fredeluces could not immediately be found.

Thom is a five-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department. Ah Nee and Fredeluces have served with the department for three and 10 years, respectively.

Interim Honolulu Police Chief Rade Vanic said he was surprised by the prosecutor’s decision to seek charges after a grand jury decided not to indict.

“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 said in a statement.

The officers will have their police powers removed and be assigned to desk duty.

Malcom Lutu, president of the state police officers’ union, said in a statement: “We continue to trust the process and will continue to stand by our officers.”

Matt Dvonch, special counsel to Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm, said it’s not unusual for prosecutors to ask a judge to find probable cause that a crime has likely been committed after a grand jury has declined to indict a person.

He said prosecutors weren’t bringing any new evidence that they didn’t have when the case went before the grand jury.

Eric Seitz, an attorney representing Sykap’s family in a lawsuit against the city and police, said he was gratified prosecutors were pursuing 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 said. “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.”

The family’s lawsuit alleges negligence, assault and battery. It asks a state court to award damages, reimburse costs and declare that the officers’ use of deadly force was unlawful and unauthorized.

Jacquie Esser, a state deputy public defender who is not involved in the case, said it’s critical that police be held accountable for when they use excessive force and kill unarmed people or if they commit misconduct.

“This is a huge step towards accountability, which is critical for the community’s trust in their policing system,” she said.

The three officers were scheduled to appear in court on June 25.

This story was first published on June 15, 2021. It was updated on June 17, 2021, to correct that the officers would be eligible for parole if they are convicted and sentenced to life in prison.