Former judge weighs in on decision to clear HPD officers in shooting death of teen

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Legal experts say a judge’s ruling to dismiss the charges against three HPD officers for the shooting death of a teenaged suspect was probably one of the hardest decisions any judge can make.

The ruling came down to whether the officers’ lives were in danger when they fired their weapons. A former judge says it was a combination of circumstances that probably led Judge William Domingo to make his decision.

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Bodycam footage from several officers was presented as key evidence in the preliminary hearing for officers Geoffrey Thom, Kyle Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces.

The prosecutor showed individual frames to show that the officers were not in danger when the stolen Honda moved and officers fired. Defense attorneys argued playing the video in real time showed otherwise, and Judge Domingo agreed.

“He couldn’t look at it from just a legal perspective in terms of, ‘he should’ve done this’ or ‘he should’ve done that.’ He had to look at it from the evidence as to what was happening in real time,” said Randal Lee, a former circuit court judge.

He adds there was the chase before the shooting and a crime spree that included armed robbery, so the officers had good reason to believe that the suspects were armed and dangerous.

“Given the facts and circumstances that led up to the encounter, they didn’t have time to deliberate. They had to make a split-second decision. They did not know if they were dealing with someone who was armed or not armed,” said Lee.

The hearing drew hundreds of supporters for the officers outside the courthouse. At one point, even lawmakers joined in. Lee says that would not have played a factor in the judge’s decision.

“Judges don’t make decisions based on public opinion. I can tell you that much. I can assure you of that,” said Lee.

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Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm will have to decide if he wants to go back to grand jury a second time. He will hold a news conference on Monday.

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