Bodycam video from fatal police shooting of teen contradicts HPD’s argument for withholding footage

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 7:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Six weeks after Honolulu police fatally shot 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in McCully, the department is still keeping bodycam videos from the incident secret.

But HNN has obtained the April 5 footage from the officer who fired the first shots, and is airing the video in the interest of helping the public understand more about the chaos that unfolded that day.

The video is from an officer HNN is referring to as “Officer One.”

He is a passenger in a squad car and says several times at the beginning of the video, while a pursuit is still underway, “Stop the vehicle. Stop the vehicle. Stop the vehicle.”

You can hear the police sirens blaring in the background as police chase a stolen Honda with Texas plates that was believed to be used in an armed robbery minutes earlier.

The Honda stops on Kalakaua Avenue and Phillip Street.

When the squad car stops as well, Officer One gets out and appears to drop his rifle on the ground. He then picks it up and puts it back inside the squad car.

Then he moves behind the Honda.

Other officers are heard yelling, “Get on the ground,” and “Police.”

Officer One is directly behind the Honda when he fires 10 consecutive shots at the back of the driver’s seat. The Honda accelerates.

The same video shows another officer approaching the Honda from the passenger side when Officer One fires. As the shots are fired, Officer Two jumps back with his gun drawn.

The passenger door of the Honda is now open and the passenger appears to be trying to get out.

Officer Two falls on the side of the now moving Honda and then fires several times as the Honda takes off. The vehicle subsequently crashed through a fence before falling to the bottom of a canal.

After the car comes to a stop, several officers yell from above at the occupants ― a mix of young adults and juveniles ― to get out of the car and not to move.

That night, HPD Chief Susan Ballard briefed the media in a news conference, saying, “We believe that the vehicle rammed into two marked police cars.”

But it’s not clear from the bodycam footage that Officer One is wearing if the Honda moves or rams any HPD units. Instead, the vehicle appeared to be stopped when the officer got behind it.

Retired federal agent Tommy Aiu said even if the Honda was not moving there was still a threat to the responding officers.

“I believe more likely than not the imminent threat exists because of the fact that they just came from a serious crime, involving a home invasion. An armed home invasion and now we’re in a hot pursuit,” Aiu said. “Even though the vehicle stopped, the engine was running.”

Aiu said officers at the time didn’t know the weapon used in an armed robbery just before the chase started, may have been a replica gun, which HPD said they found in the Honda.

“We don’t know what the officer is actually seeing when he’s making the decision to use deadly force,” Aiu said referring to the fact the body camera is worn in the chest area and doesn’t show the line of sight. “Whether or not he sees the suspect in the drivers seat with the weapon or not.”

Aiu, however, did say that HPD should release all the videos to give the public the most informed perspective of what happened.

The department is refusing to do that, citing juvenile protection laws because the other juveniles in the car are still under criminal investigation for other crimes.

But the video Hawaii News Now has, from Officer One’s perspective, does not show the faces of any of the occupants. Legal experts have also noted that faces can be blurred in other officer videos.

HPD’s decision to keep the video secret following the McCully shooting differs from its stance after an April 15 shooting in Nuuanu.

In that case, the department released bodycam footage days after the fatal shooting.

Those videos showed the officers being struck repeatedly by 29-year old Lindani Miyeni. Two of the officers were seriously injured before the shots were fired.

“Someone made the decision that the Nuuanu video made the department look good. Someone made the decision that the Kalakaua video made the department look bad and so they chose which videos to release,” said Megan Kau, a former deputy city prosecutor who is now a defense attorney.

“You cannot just release one video and just pick and choose, that’s not transparent and it’s definitely not fair to the community.”

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s office is investigating both police shooting from last month to determine if any of the officers will face criminal charges.

If charges are not filed, the office said all the footage would all be released. That office did not mention concerns over the juveniles in the Honda ― HPD’s argument for withholding the videos.

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