HONOLULU (AP) — Three Honolulu police officers appeared in court on Friday to face charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Micronesian boy, the first cases of their kind against law enforcement in the city in more than 40 years.
The officers were not asked to enter pleas during the hearing, when they were officially informed of the charges that they face.
The April 5 shooting killed Iremamber Sykap, who police and prosecutors have 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, authorities have said.
Officer Geoffrey H.L. Thom fired 10 rounds at Skyap through the rear window of the Honda using a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic firearm, prosecutors said. The five-year police department veteran fired the shots “without provocation” after the car came to a stop at an intersection, according to court documents.
Thom was charged with one count of second-degree murder. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 20 years because of the kind of gun used in the shooting.
Fellow officers Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces, who also opened fire, are charged with second-degree attempted murder, which also carry minimum sentences of 20 years.
Prosecutors filed the charges after a grand jury declined to indict the three officers.
Attorneys for the three officers said in a statement that "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."
The statement added: “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 officers, who each wore blue aloha shirts, didn't speak in court. A judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for July 20.
Friday's court appearance drew about 200 supporters of the officers to the plaza fronting the downtown courthouse.
Many wore T-shirts saying “Support our Officers” and chanted “free the three!”
The lawyers for the officers in their statement thanked the community for their “overwhelming outpouring of support.”
Audrey Mcavoy, The Associated Press