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Grand jury declines to indict officers involved in shooting that killed teen

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 2:15 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 10:32 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state grand jury has declined to indict three Honolulu police officers who fired at a stolen car being driven by 16-year old Iremamber Sykap in April.

Sykap was shot in the back of the head and shoulder and died of his injuries.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the city Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that it presented evidence to an Oahu grand jury seeking indictments of the three officers.

“The department is reviewing the matter,” the statement continued.

City Prosecutor Steve Alm said in a May news release, that in cases of police shootings his office determines were justified, he will hold a news conference and release all the evidence and legal reasoning for the conclusion.

But in cases of unjustified shootings, he said, “the department will secure an indictment and charge any law enforcement officer that the department believes committed a crime which it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Eric Seitz, the attorney for Sykap’s family, said family members were distraught at hearing the news.

“In the nearly 50 years I’ve been practicing law in Hawaii, I’ve never heard of that happening. I’ve never heard of a prosecutor taking a case to the grand jury, and the grand jury refusing to indict,” Seitz said.

He also said the city’s attorneys ― including the Prosecutor’s Office ― have kept them out of the loop.

“I had no idea that they were taking the case to the grand jury. Nobody from any city agency, including the Prosecutor’s Office, has been in touch with us, for any input or any cooperation whatsoever,” said Seitz.

The three officers in the McCully shooting had been chasing a stolen Honda that had been used in several previous crimes.

Body worn camera video obtained by Hawaii News Now showed one of the officers firing 10 times at the car before it drove away and crashed into a canal.

Defense attorney and former city deputy Prosecutor Megan Kau said that because it’s rare for a grand jurors to decline to indict, the message in this case is clear.

“For the grand jury to have spoken and said, out loud, ‘These officers are not criminally liable for the shooting of this person,’ is a huge statement and our community should embrace it,” Kau said.

Authorities have declined to officially release any bodycam video from the shooting, despite public calls to do so. Kau said she’s sure the grand jurors saw all the footage.

“I would be extremely surprised if the deputy prosecuting attorney went in front of the grand jury and picked and chose which videos to show, to show a biased version of what happened,” said Kau.

“They looked at all of the circumstances and all of the evidence and came to the conclusion that a reasonable person could not find that these officers are criminally liable,” she added.

Several other people were in the car with Sykap, including other juveniles. One of them was injured but has since recovered.

Seitz said he doesn’t know how the panel came to their conclusion and has requested the transcripts from the proceedings.

“I would hope that the city’s lawyers cooperate with us ot get those transcripts so we can sit down with the family and tell them what happened,” said Seitz.

Syka[’s family earlier filed a wrongful death lawsuit against HPD and the city.

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