Hearing continues in case against 3 Honolulu police officers

HONOLULU — A judge in Honolulu was scheduled Tuesday to resume a hearing on whether three police officers should be tried on murder and attempted murder charges for a shooting that killed a teenager and injured his brother.

District Court Judge William Domingo began hearing testimony last month from witnesses about the April 5 shooting that killed Iremamber Sykap. Honolulu police said that immediately before the shooting, the 16-year-old led officers on a high-speed chase while driving a stolen car 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 Christopher Fredeluces, who also opened fire, are charged with second-degree attempted murder.

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.

Prior sessions of the preliminary hearing aired portions of videos from body cameras worn by officers. In one clip, two officers in a police vehicle are in a high-speed chase of a white Honda that they were told was stolen and involved in a series of violent crimes involving guns.

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.

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