HONOLULU (KHON2) — The grandmother and mother of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Friday, May 21, against the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu police officers involved in his shooting death on Monday, April 5.
Police say Sykap was driving a stolen car that was linked to a crime spree before he drove it into the Kalakaua Stream. The others in the car ranged in age from 14 to 22.
His family filed a lawsuit saying officers have been harassing the family and are also asking HPD to release bodycam video and 911 calls because they believe the shooting was unjustified.
“Do you guys have evidence that he stole that car? Do you guys have evidence that he was really robbing people? Was it him?” said Siwinia Sykap, Iremamber’s sister.
HPD said a gun replica was found in the car and the officers fired in self-defense. The attorney for the Sykap family says he has seen no evidence of that.
“If they were firing at a car that was headed toward them that might be warranted. But we see no evidence of that and no one has documented that in any manner whatsoever,” said attorney Eric Seitz.
The widow of Lindani Myeni also filed a lawsuit after the Nuuanu shooting in which HPD released bodycam footage of Myeni fighting with three officers. The City is already poised to settle a lawsuit of another fatal police shooting in Malaekahana from 2017 and is likely to pay a million dollars.
“Bottom line, any sort of settlement by the city or any sort of court judgment against the city comes out of every single one of our resident’s dollars through our property taxes,” said Honolulu Police Commissioner Doug Chin.
Chin was the City managing director from 2010 to 2013. He points out that these wrongful death lawsuits could end up in hefty payouts either by settlement or even worse, a court judgment.
“What the city will end up looking at are judgments that are at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more than a million or even higher than that,” said Chin.
At a time when the City is already dealing with a tight budget, that is significant.
HPD says it can not comment on the lawsuits and the investigation into both shootings continues.
The lawsuit alleges that officers have been harassing and threatening family members. It also says police are withholding information about the shooting. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief.
“They’ve been calling grandma and the mom. They’ve been going by their house and making threats,” attorney Eric Seitz said on Friday. “Among them, threats that if the other brothers don’t turn themselves in and cooperate with the authorities, that they’re going to end up dead as well.”
In other instances, the family says police have waited outside the mortuary on the day of Sykap’s funeral and harassed people who attended the vigil site.
“I believe these police officers who were engaged in the shooting are legitimately concerned they may face criminal charges,” said Seitz.
Seitz said the family has received a death certificate, which says Sykap died of multiple gunshot wounds, but they are still waiting on the autopsy report, medical records and police evidence.
HPD has said it will not release body camera footage since juveniles were involved. Spokeswoman Sarah Yoro says the department also won’t release 911 recordings.
On Monday, May 17, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said his office anticipates to complete their independent investigation within the next 30 to 60 days. They are also investigating the officer-involved shooting of Lindani Myeni.
If the investigations conclude that the shootings were justified, Alm will hold a news conference to explain the evidence and intends to release it, including forensic reports, witness statements, 911 calls and body-worn camera footage.