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Prosecutors: No lives were in danger when officers fatally shot 16-year-old

Published: Jun. 16, 2021 at 5:07 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police officers are allowed to use deadly force if they feel someone’s life is in danger ― either their own or other members of the public.

But in painstaking detail, the criminal complaint against three Honolulu officers charged in the death of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap alleges neither of these factors were in play before the April 5 shooting.

Geoffrey Thom, 42, was charged Tuesday with one count of second-degree murder while two other officers ― Christopher Fredeluces and Zackary Ah Nee ― face attempted murder charges.

In the complaint, deputy Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter noted when the officers began to fire “there were no pedestrians to the front. … The nearest pedestrian was about 40 – 50 feet behind.”

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The complaint also notes that police bodyworn camera contradicts the officers’ accounts.

“(Officer) Thom said the white Honda ‘reversed’ directly at him,” the complaint said. “That is not seen on the (body worn camera) videos. He said Officer Fredeluces was in front of the white Honda on the passenger’s side when it accelerated forward. … That was not seen in the (body worn camera) videos.”

All three officers have been stripped of their police powers and placed on desk duty.

[Read more: The 3 Honolulu officers charged for teen’s murder remain out of jail. Here’s why]

In analyzing the case against the officers, former Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin pointed to HPD’s ballistics reports. It showed that Sykap was shot a total of eight times.

Prosecutors said the 16-year old was shot in the back of the head, twice in the back of the neck and four times in the back. One of those bullets pierced his heart.

“There really is no law in Hawaii or any of the other 49 states, that allows you to put out that many shots without having a big explanation,” said Chin.

Added Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii Law School, “At that point there’s no justification. It’s like shooting a person who’s running away from you.”

But Lawson said it will be difficult to convict the officers.

Already, an Oahu grand jury declined to indict the trio.

Lawson said it’ll be harder to convince all 12 members of a jury to return a unanimous verdict.

“Jurors will forgive police officers even if they believe the officers used excessive force ... because they see police officers out there as protecting the public,” he said.

“It’s (also) the lack of sympathy for the victim.”

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