Officers charged in teen’s fatal shooting hire attorneys, but taxpayers could pay legal costs

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 5:55 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 23, 2021 at 4:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The three Honolulu police officers charged in the April 5 fatal shooting of a teen robbery suspect have retained private attorneys.

Zackary Ah Nee, who is charged with attempted murder, hired Tommy Otake to represent him.

Attorney Tommy Otake represents Ofc. Zackary Ah Nee
Attorney Tommy Otake represents Ofc. Zackary Ah Nee(Tommy Otake)

Christopher Fredeluces, who is also facing attempted murder charges, retained Crystal Glendon.

And Geoffrey Thom, who is facing the most serious charge of second-degree murder, hired Richard Sing.

Attorney Crystal Glendon
Attorney Crystal Glendon(Law Office of Crystal Glendon)

All three attorneys are well known and this criminal case is expected to be costly.

So who will foot the bill?

“This kind of case, especially with this kind of high publicity, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said attorney William Harrison.

Attorney Richard Sing
Attorney Richard Sing(The Law Office of Richard HS Sing)

The officers are paying their legal expenses right now, but Harrison said they could ask the city for help.

The police commission would ultimately decide if taxpayers should fund their court fight.

Harrison said the the decision isn’t made based on the charges or severity of the allegations, but on whether the officer was doing city work at the time.

“Was that individual in the course and scope of their employment and all of them were, so I see this as a decision that’s fairly simple decision to be made,” Harrison said.

He has been paid city dollars in the past to represent officers.

Attorney Megan Kau also has been in this position before, but she said the commissioners are different from the ones who approved her legal fees.

“It’s very difficult to say what the commission is going to do at this point,” she said.

“Number one, because the makeup of the commission has changed and number two, because this is an extremely unprecedented case.”

“We’ve never seen a police officer charged for a shooting in the line of duty.”

Sing and Glendon filed motions Tuesday requesting discovery, in an effort to get some of the evidence the prosecution has ahead of the preliminary hearing.

The court document specifically asks for evidence the prosecution used ahead of charging the three officers.

According to the criminal complaint the office reviewed more than 1,300 pages of police reports, 70 body worn camera videos and at least 40 videos from cameras in the area surrounding the incident.

The attorneys want all of that plus the grand jury transcripts.

A grand jury declined to indict the officers days before the city Prosecutor’s Office moved forward with the criminal complaint.

While the defense is asking for the evidence ahead of the preliminary hearing, it’s unlikely all of it will be released unless the case moves forward.

“Discovery at the preliminary hearing stage is extremely limited,” said Kau. “You don’t get everything that the government has.”

But Kau said if the deputy prosecutor plans on presenting evidence at the hearing, that evidence would be turned over to the defense for review ahead of time.

None of the body camera videos have been publicly released.

Ofc. Geoffrey Thom's body camera video shows Ofc. Zackary Ah Nee at the passenger side of the...
Ofc. Geoffrey Thom's body camera video shows Ofc. Zackary Ah Nee at the passenger side of the stolen car(None)

Sources provided Hawaii News Now with the video from Thom’s body camera, which shows him and Fredeluces chasing the stolen car that Sykap was driving.

The car was suspected in an armed robbery minutes earlier. The video shows the car stop at Kalakaua Avenue and Phillip Street. Thom moves behind the car then fires multiple rounds, according to the criminal complaint. Sykap was hit in the back of the head, the back and shoulder areas.

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

The officers may not ask for city funds, especially if mainland groups step up to assist.

There are some that support police officers, even help fund the legal defense in cases like this one.

It’s not clear if any of those groups will be assisting Thom, Ah Nee, or Fredeluces pay their attorneys.

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