HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three Honolulu police officers will not go to trial.
Judge William Domingo ruled that there was no probable cause in the shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in their preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 18. The ruling granted officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces another win in the case.
There still could be civil and criminal cases in the future, however.
The Sykap family attorney is moving forward with a civil suit against the City even with the decision, and a legal expert says the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office still has options to move the criminal case forward.
“I’m not surprised because historically, here and throughout the United States, it’s very difficult to get criminal charges filed against police officers in these kinds of cases,” Sykap family attorney Eric Seitz said.
According to former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Megan Kau, this kind of decision does not happen very often.
“I’m shocked, actually,” Kau said. “We hardly, if ever, see a judge ruled that there’s no probable cause to charge a felony case. It’s very, very rare. Probably out of all of my years at the prosecutor’s office, I saw it maybe twice.”
The Prosecutor’s Office still has options; the first would be to drop the case.
“Second, they can try to file an appeal, although I’ve never seen that been done before because we hardly get judges finding that there is no probable cause,” Kau said. “There’s no reason to appeal that order because it hardly ever happens. The third option is to take it to another grand jury,”
She added that they could even try to get another judge to go through another preliminary hearing.
The Prosecutor’s Office has not yet said what it is going to do. Steve Alm released a statement Wednesday that said he is disappointed by the ruling and plans to have a press conference on the matter on Monday, Aug. 23.
“We’re grateful for what the judge decided, this just proves that our officers made the right decision, ” SHOPO president Malcolm Lutu said.
There is still the civil suit even if this is the end of the criminal case.
“My hope is rather than dragging this out, and running up fees and costs and putting everybody through more agony, that the city would do what cities in Baltimore, and New York, and Milwaukee, and Louisville, and every other place have done, and would settle with us,” Seitz said.
The Sykap family does not currently have a monetary figure for the settlement.
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Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he supports the officers, and “I am confident the facts in this case were fully vetted and the appropriate conclusion was reached. I understand this case was very difficult for everyone involved and I hope our community is able to heal and move forward,”