Honolulu officers want charges dismissed in fatal shooting

HONOLULU (AP) — Three Honolulu police officers are asking a judge to dismiss charges against them in connection with a shooting that killed a 16-year-old Micronesian boy.

Prosecutors pursuing charges against them after a grand jury declined to indict them “is statutorily and constitutionally impermissible,” said a motion to dismiss by Officer Zackary Ah Nee. Attorneys representing fellow Officers Geoffrey Thom and Christopher Fredeluces have joined in the motion filed Tuesday.

The April 5 shooting killed Iremamber Sykap, who police said was driving a stolen car linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse-snatching and car theft. Sykap led officers on a chase immediately before the shooting, police said.

Thom, who prosecutors said fired 10 rounds at Sykap through the rear window of the car after it stopped at an intersection, is charged with murder. Ah Nee and Fredeluces, who also opened fire, are charged with second-degree attempted murder.

Prosecutors filed the charges after a grand jury declined to indict the officers.

At a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 20, prosecutors “will take a second bite at the apple, taking advantage of second opportunity, before a different decision-maker,” to establish probable cause that they failed to convince grand jurors of, the motion said.

The officers believed “that the stolen Honda’s occupants had committed an armed robbery, during which a firearm was brandished, about a half-hour before they led officers on the high-speed chase; and that the stolen Honda’s occupants had committed other violent and reckless offenses, both during the high-speed chase and in days preceding it,” the motion said.

The Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday approved the officers’ requests for legal counsel to defend them against the charges. Commission members based their decision on whether the officers are legally entitled to legal counsel, not on the merits of case. The City Council will then approve the city retaining private attorneys and negotiate city rates, commission member Carrie Okinaga said.

The motion said it is an “unusual procedural process that seems inherently suspect” to turn to a judge to find probable cause after a grand jury refused to return an indictment.

Jacquie Esser, a deputy state public defender not involved in the case, said she has seen it happen all the time.

“As a public defender, I’ve represented people in the exact same situation,” Esser said. “There was never this public outcry when it’s people that the public defender’s office represents … which is disproportionately Native Hawaiian, Micronesian — people of lower economic status — nobody seems to care.”

The Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney said it is reviewing the motion and will respond in court as appropriate.