New body cam video in Sykap case is key to defense, but experts say officers don’t appear to be at risk
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Honolulu Police Officer Chanel Price arrived at the scene near Kalakaua and Kanunu streets on April 5, her body camera videotaped a stolen white Honda as it lunged forward ― moments before police officers shot and killed 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.
That video, which was shown for the first time at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing for officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces, has emerged as a key piece of evidence bolstering the officers’ claims that their lives were in danger when they shot at the car.
“If someone is at the front driver’s side ― maybe not directly in front but still pretty close on the front side of it ― if the car moves forward, he could still hurt them, right?” asked Tommy Otake, attorney for Ah Nee, who is charged with second-degree attempted murder.
“Yes,” said Price, who testified as a witness during a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.
The defense also argued that the suspects in the Honda posed a danger to the public.
“Given what you know about the history of this vehicle, and its occupants, the firearms and the robberies, the refusal to pull over, the reckless driving during this time, were you concerned that delayed apprehension of these individuals will jeopardize community safety?” asked Otake.
“Yes,” said Price.
But prosecutors have argued that there were no pedestrians nearby and that the officers were at the side of the car ― and not in front where they would be in danger.
Maui civil rights attorney Eric Ferrer, who has handled hundreds of police shooting cases on the mainland, said even the movement of the car didn’t pose an imminent threat.
“The fact that the car moved doesn’t mean anything unless the movement created a threat. And it didn’t create a threat because it wasn’t towards the officers. The officers were on the side of vehicle,” said Ferrer.
Tim Williams, a use of force expert in Los Angeles, said the two officers at the side of the car ― Fredeluces and Ah Nee ― actually put themselves at risk by standing so close to the car.
“The officers didn’t need to place themselves near or around that car. A badge and gun is not going to stop a car. You’re putting yourself in harm’s way. That’s not a defense for lethal force,” Williams said.
The preliminary hearing resumes next month when the judge will be asked to determine if there is enough evidence to send the officers to trial for murder and attempted murder.
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