HONOLULU (KHON2) — City taxpayers could be on the hook for paying more legal fees after three HPD officers were charged in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy. Legal experts also say that the fate of the officers will rely heavily on the video evidence presented in the case.
Legal experts say because the shooting happened while the three officers were performing their duty, the city will likely be paying the legal bills, which could easily go over a million dollars.
“We just can’t have officers having to flip their own legal bills and expect anyone to stay on the force. The system just wouldn’t work,” said defense attorney Victor Bakke, who’s not involved in the case.
Bakke says video evidence, which includes footage from 70 bodycams and 20 security cameras in the area, will be the focus of the case.
“Because it is the most reliable, it’s the most unbiased. It can’t be cross examined. You look at it, and it shows what it shows,” said Bakke.
Documents filed by the prosecutors say the statements from the officers do not match what is shown in the videos. One officer is charged with murder for the death of Iremamber Sykap. The other two officers are charged with attempted murder.
Bakke also points out that when a grand jury decided not to charge the officers, prosecutors would normally just go to another grand jury.
“That’s where they are safest. That’s where they are protected. That’s where they are in full control of the proceedings. So there’s no reason they should never be able to get a grand jury, unless the evidence isn’t there,” said Bakke.
He also questions why the officers were not arrested.
“Any other person would have gotten arrested. They would’ve been put in custody, and they would’ve had to post bail, and then they would’ve proceeded to a preliminary hearing. It is unheard of,” said Bakke.
When KHON2 asked the prosecutors office, a spokesperson sent the following statement: “The court chose to issue a penal summons, meaning the officers will be compelled to attend an initial appearance on June 25th. We’re going to decline further comment on this case.”
HPD says the officers’ police powers will be restricted, and they’ll be assigned to desk duty.
Bakke points out that the highly unusual strategy by prosecutors is perfectly legal. But he says prosecutors are bending the rules in their favor.