HONOLULU — A 16-year-old fatally shot by Honolulu police weaved in and out of traffic at 50 to 80 mph as he led police on a high-speed chase along highways and city streets immediately before the shooting.
The details came during testimony on Tuesday as District Court Judge William Domingo resumed a preliminary hearing on whether three police officers should be tried on murder and attempted murder charges for the April 5 shooting that killed Iremamber Sykap and injured his brother.
Defense attorney Crystal Glendon shared the information included in a report that her client Christopher Fredeluces submitted about the incident. Fredeluces was driving one of the patrol cars that chased Sykap’s white Honda along Kalanianaole Highway, the H-1 freeway and city streets.
Police say the Honda was stolen and linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse-snatching and car theft.
Officer Geoffrey Thom is charged with murder. Prosecutors said he fired 10 rounds at Sykap through the rear window of the car after it stopped at an intersection. Officers Zackary Ah Nee and Fredeluces, who also opened fire, are charged with second-degree attempted murder.
A police lieutenant testified that Ah Nee and Fredeluces were in danger as they approached the car after the high-speed chase.
Under questioning of Ah Nee’s attorney, Lt. Brandon Nakasone of the Honolulu Police Department’s professional standards office said he agreed the officers didn’t need to be directly in front or behind the car to be at risk.
“They were close enough to be in the zone of danger, that if that vehicle moved, it could have severely injured or killed them, yes?” asked Thomas Otake, Ah Nee’s lawyer.
“Yes,” Nakasone replied.
Honolulu prosecutors filed charges against the three officers after a grand jury declined to indict them. It’s the first time in more than 40 years that a Honolulu police officer has been charged in a fatal shooting.
Domingo has scheduled one more session for the hearing on Wednesday.
Last month, a police evidence specialist testified that a pellet gun that looked like a firearm was found in the car Sykap was driving. Police said they also found two magazines, one with real ammunition and one that was empty. But they did not find real firearms in the car.
Police also testified that officers found a backpack several blocks away from the shooting which came from a suspect who fled the vehicle. The backpack contained an inoperable blank-firing revolver, which is similar to devices used as movie props or at track-and-field events.
Honolulu’s chief medical examiner testified that Sykap was hit by eight shots, including one to the back of the head and a fatal wound in the upper back, which tore his aorta. The medical examiner said toxicology results showed methamphetamine in Sykap’s blood.
The case comes a year after nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality in other parts of the U.S. Some in the Micronesian community say Sykap’s shooting highlights the racism they face in Hawaii.
Sykap was born in Guam, a U.S. territory, to parents who were from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald