3 HPD officers charged in teen’s fatal shooting make first appearance in court

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 6:52 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After walking past a large gathering of cheering supporters, three Honolulu police officers facing murder charges in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old made their initial appearance in court on Friday morning and were given another date to return.

Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces appeared in person before a District Court judge for less than four minutes.

They did not make any statements and their attorneys said they did not need details of the complaint against them read out loud.

[Read more: Scores crowd outside courthouse to show support for 3 charged officers]

During the court appearance, a date and time for a preliminary hearing was set: July 20 at 1:30 p.m.

The officers have not been arrested, and instead received penal summons to appear in court.

Defense attorneys say it’s rare that people charged with murder and attempted murder are not taken into custody, but the case is unprecedented.

“When you have a grand jury that can’t find probable cause ... they’re being treated very civilly and more so than other citizens would be treated,” said defense attorney Michael Green.

“But, you know, I’ve never seen this before.”

While the three officers didn’t say anything to the media after leaving court, their defense attorneys did issue a joint statement that thanked their supporters.

The statement read:

“Geoffrey, Zack and Chris want to thank the community for the overwhelming outpouring of support. It is clear that most in our community believe that filing these charges after an independent grand jury rejected them is concerning, to say the very least. While we recognize the tragedy of this situation, we as their attorneys will do all that we can to prevent wrongful convictions in this case.”

The case, which has attracted significant local and even national attention, is the first time a Honolulu prosecutor has brought charges against officers in a fatal shooting.

The charges were especially surprising in light of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers just days before the city Prosecutor’s Office moved forward with the criminal complaint.

Thom, 42, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder.

The two other officers ― Ah Nee, 26, and Fredeluces, 40 ― both face attempted murder charges.

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

The officers shot 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in April, following a police chase.

The teen 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.

In expansive court filings, prosecutors said the officers’ official statements on why they used deadly force were not consistent with the bodycam video and that at no time were their lives or the lives of any bystanders in danger.

“The biggest hump for the government to get over is they’re going to have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that these three officers intentionally or knowingly killed or tried to kill someone,” attorney Megan Kau said.

“And the fact that the grand jury found that there was no probable cause, which is a very low standard, tells me that the community is not willing to convict police officers for acting in the line of duty.”

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This story will be updated.

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