A Honolulu Officer has been charged with the murder of a 16-year-old boy. Two officers also found to be in connection to the murder have been charged with attempted murder.
Geoffrey H.L. Thom was charged with one count of murder in the second degree. Zackary K. Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces were each charged with one count of attempted murder in the second degree. If convicted, all three face a life sentence with the possibility of parole. The officers have since been stripped of their police powers and have been reassigned to desk duty. The three officers combined share 18 years of experience on the force.
According to experts, this is the first time that Honolulu police officers have been charged in a deadly shooting. In seeking the charges, Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said his office reviewed more than 1,300 pages of police reports, 70 body camera videos and 40 videos from other nearby cameras.
The April 5 shooting killed Iremamber Sykap, who police and prosecutors have said was driving a stolen car linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse-snatching, and car theft. Before the shooting, Sykap led officers on a chase. Officer Geoffrey H.L. Thom fired 10 rounds at Sykap through the rear window of the Honda using a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic firearm. Sykap was injured in the back of the head, back of the neck, upper back, and left arm. He was brought to the hospital and pronounced dead from his injuries soon after.
According to charging documents, Thom ― the officer charged with murder ― claimed that Sykap rammed the stolen car he was driving into his patrol car. But Thom’s vehicle had minor paint chips and scuff marks, the documents said.
Thom alleged in his account that Sykap steered his car into the officer’s cruiser, and that he shot the suspect to protect him and others. However, prosecutors maintain that the evidence does not support Thom’s claims and point out the inconsistencies in Thom’s account with the evidence available.
In his report, Ah Nee claimed he saw what he thought was a firearm on the lap of the front seat passenger – Sykap’s brother. Prosecutors counter that body camera footage shows the object the passenger had was not a rifle and does not resemble a firearm. Police have alleged the teen stole the car that he died in.
The teen’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city and the police officers involved. Eric Seitz is the attorney representing Sykap’s family in a civil lawsuit. “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 charges negligence, assault, and battery. Additionally, the family asks a state court to award damages, reimburse costs and declare that the officers’ use of deadly force was unlawful and unauthorized.