Legal experts weigh in on unexpected charges against Honolulu police officers

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Surprised, stunned and shocked.

Those are the ways legal experts described their reaction to Tuesday’s unprecedented decision by Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm to charge Honolulu police officer Geoffrey Thom with second-degree murder and officers Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces with attempted murder.

A judge will now determine if there is probable cause to take this case to trial.

The prosecutor’s office is planning on releasing police-worn body camera footage from the shooting during the preliminary hearing. In addition to the video, the prosecutor’s office says they reviewed hundreds of pages of police reports as well as 40 videos from cameras in the area. Law experts expect the body camera footage to be key evidence.

“Body-worn camera footage that doesn’t lie, ballistics reports don’t lie, and I think the prosecutor’s office is basically saying, ‘look we have looked at the evidence and we have enough charges to move forward now with a murder case in front of one officer and attempted murder in front of two others,'” former deputy prosecutor Doug Chin said.

As of June 15, a date for the preliminary hearing has not been set. Former deputy prosecutor Megan Kau says it is standard for the prosecutor’s office to keep evidence under wraps to uphold the integrity of the case.

Kau thinks that public outcry played a large role in Prosecutor Alm’s decision.

“I believe that is part of the mounting pressure on the current prosecuting attorney because he has to answer to the people so he is trying to do what is best for his community,” Kau said.

A grand jury declined to indict the officers on Wednesday, June 9. Kau said the fact that their findings were circumnavigated does not make sense.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to circumvent a grand jury process because that is our community. The grand jury is made up of between 19 and 25 people from our community and they have spoken,” Kau said.

HPD says the three officers that were charged will have their police powers restricted and will be reassigned to desk duty. Separate from the criminal charges, the Sykap family is also pursuing a civil lawsuit against HPD. Their attorney says even he was surprised by the charges.

“Frankly if the facts warrant that then it’s a good thing that the prosecutor’s office is proceeding with this case,” attorney Eric Seitz said.

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