3 Honolulu police officers face murder charges in teen’s fatal shooting

The Prosecuting Attorney announced murder charges Tuesday against three Honolulu police officers involved in the deadly shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 2:44 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 2:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a major development Tuesday that left even legal experts stunned, a Honolulu police officer was charged with murder and two others with attempted murder in connection with the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in April.

If convicted, all three face a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

The charges ― filed via court complaint ― were announced in a news release, surprising legal experts in the wake of a state grand jury last week declining to move forward with charges.

That grand jury decision was praised by the police union, which said in a statement Tuesday that it would “continue to trust the process” and stand by its officers.

The officers in the complaint were identified as:

  • Geoffrey Thom, 42, who was charged with one count of second-degree murder. He is a five-year veteran of the force.
  • Zackary Ah Nee, 26, who has been with HPD for three years. He was charged with one count of second-degree murder.
  • And Christopher Fredeluces, 40, who was also charged with one count of second-degree attempted murder. He is a 10-year veteran of the force.

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It’s believed this is the first time that Honolulu police officers have been charged in a deadly shooting, according to HNN law enforcement expert Tommy Aiu.

In a statement, Interim HPD Chief Rade Vanic said he was “surprised” by the charges given the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers.

“This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past,” he said, in the statement. “While we await the court’s decision, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we have always done.”

In the meantime, the officers have been stripped of their police powers and assigned to desk duty.

The city Prosecutor’s Office said evidence such as body camera footage and ballistics reports won’t be released to the public prior to the officers’ preliminary hearing on June 25.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor said Fredeluces fired into the driver’s door without confirming that the shots he heard were coming from within the vehicle.

Ah Nee said he thought he saw a firearm on the front passenger’s lap, but prosecutors said body camera footage show a thin square object that does not look like a firearm.

Photos included in the criminal complaint showed the direction of the bullets that were fired. Sykap was shot in the back of the head and several times in the shoulder.

Thom’s body camera video shows him standing behind the car when he fired 10 times. The two other officers were on the side of the vehicle.

The following image depicts the trajectory of bullets fired by Thom:

Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Thom.
Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Thom.(Prosecutor's Officer)

Below is the trajectory of gunfire by Fredeluces, according to prosecutors:

Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Fredeluces.
Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Fredeluces.(Prosecutor's Officer)

And the next image is the trajectory of bullets allegedly fired by Ah Nee:

Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Ah Nee.
Presume bullet trajectory from Officer Ah Nee.(Prosecutor's Officer)

In a statement Tuesday, SHOPO President Malcom Lutu said, “We continue to trust the process and will continue to stand by our officers.”

Other legal experts say the developments in the case are unprecedented in Hawaii.

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a prosecutor present a case to the grand jury, get rejected, and then turn around and tried to take it to preliminary hearing,” Attorney Victor Bakke said.

Deputy Public Defender Jacquie Esser agreed.

“I’m sort of shocked. I was not expecting this at all,” she said.

She added, “The officers shot 10 times to the back of the car. If you look at the bullet trajectory, it’s all to the back of the head multiple times, which shows an intent to kill.”

This story will be updated.

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