An Oahu District Court judge dismissed a motion to dismiss murder and attempted murder charges against three Honolulu police officers in connection with the fatal April 5 shooting of a 16-year-old who had methamphetamine in his body and was driving a stolen car allegedly involved in a two-day violent crime spree.
The decision came before a preliminary hearing began to determine whether there was a likely reason to continue the prosecution of the officers, where both sides plan to present witnesses, body-worn camera footage, police reports and other evidence.
Earlier in the hearing, the judge also dismissed a defense motion to disqualify Deputy City Attorney Christopher T. Van Marter.
The charges of second degree murder against Officer Geoffrey HL Thom, 42, a five-year veteran of the force, and attempted second-degree murder against Zackary K. Ah Nee, 26, a three-year veteran of the HPD, and his partner Christopher J. Fredeluces, 40, who has served 10 years in the department, was filed a criminal complaint after an Oahu grand jury refused to indict the officers.
Richard HS Sing, who represents Thom, Crystal K. Glendon, attorney for Fredeluces, and attorney for Ah Nee, Thomas M. Otake, argued that prosecutors could not deny the will of a composed jury peer reviewers and that the grand jury process is an important control over a prosecutor’s power. This violates the constitution of the state and the United States and the precedents set by previous decisions and opinions of the Supreme Court of Hawaii.
“The grand jury shouldn’t allow them a second bite of apple,” Sing said during the proceedings.
Speaking about the decision to charge by complaint after a grand jury refused to charge the officers, Otake said it was “the most egregious act of arrogance I have seen in 20 years of practicing law “.
Van Marter argued that Hawaii’s Constitution provides several avenues for a prosecutor to indict suspected criminals and that a jury’s decision does not prevent prosecutors from using other methods to indict a suspect.
“No bill comes in. It’s not unusual,” he told the court. “Some people think it’s because they never played the role of prosecutor.”
Judge William M Domingo agreed. “Statutory, it is authorized. Nothing prevents the preliminary hearing from continuing in this case, ”he said this afternoon.
The preliminary hearing for the three officers began after the ruling and lasted until 4 p.m., when Domingo scheduled it to continue on Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
Van Marter, Sing, Glendon and Otake all declined to comment outside the elevator bay on the fourth floor of the district court after the hearing.
The three policemen left with their lawyers and were greeted by the roar of the crowd that remained outside the courthouse on Alakea Street as they walked down Alakea Street. Two police cars blocked the far-right lane of Alakea Street to make room for the police and their supporters. Uniformed officers dressed in orange safety vests directed cars and people around the crowd.
Van Marter’s first two witnesses at the start of the preliminary hearing were Sho Furuta, trauma surgeon at Queen’s Medical Center and Masahiko Kobayashi, medical examiner in Honolulu.
Furuta was asked about Sykap’s condition upon arrival at the hospital. Doctors performed CPR on him for 30 minutes before finally pronouncing him dead.
Sykap was in a “very, very futile condition for the trauma department,” Furuta said.
Kobayashi testified about the eight gunshot wounds Sykap sustained when the officers opened fire.
“The number 1 gunshot wound was to the back of the head. The bullet fractured the skull and penetrated brain tissue about an inch,” he said in court.
Only one of the 7 bullets was not recovered from Sykap’s body and handed over to evidence specialists, he said. Van Marter asked Kobayashi to describe each of them in court.
Sykap’s toxicology report revealed methamphetamine and nicotine and their metabolites in his system. Van Marter asked if Sykap had ingested the methamphetamine.
“I’m not really sure he ingested… like food,” Kobayashi said. “He could smoke, he could ingest, I’m not really sure.”
Kobayashi didn’t know when Sykap took the methamphetamine.
“Was his system positive for methamphetamine?” Asked Otake.
“Yes,” Kobayashi replied.
People who use methamphetamine may experience “anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and mood disorders” according to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The last witness of the day was Patrol Officer Masashi Uyematsu, a veteran of the force for a year and a half, who traveled in the ambulance with Iremamber’s brother, Mark, as he was transported from the scene of the shooting on Kalakaua Avenue on April 5.
Sing asked Uyematsu why he got into the ambulance with Mark Sykap, who was shot in the wrist.
“At the time, he was not handcuffed,” Uyematsu said. “He was still a suspect. There was a threat to EMS and others.
Ahead of the hearing, more than 200 police, firefighters, longshoremen and other supporters gathered outside the Alakea courthouse to show their support for the police and demand discipline against Honolulu District Attorney Steven S. Alm for ignoring the grand jury’s decision.
Police officers on leave made up the majority of the crowd, some of them armed and wearing their Crime Reduction Unit or Specialized Services Division tactical vests.
Others wore black t-shirts with “Support Our Officers” written on the chest in white letters, with SHOPO, the acronym for the Union of Hawaii State Police Officers, on the back. . The large and noisy crowd lined up on both sides of Hotel Street in front of the entrance to the courthouse.
They were led by Wayne Kaiwi, founder of “Back Dah Blue Hawaii,” who reprized his June 25 role as the main protester, shouting his support through a megaphone.
“This is our ohana. This is how we do it, ”Kaiwi said, before the hearing began. “Let us keep in mind these three police officers and their families. When you see a police officer in the street, say “thank you”.
Police vehicles, some with sirens on and others with flashing lights, passed the crowds and received applause and applause.
Others wore black t-shirts that read “Back Dah Blue” and signs saying “Free Dah Three” Police risk their lives every day, sign up or shut down! And “Fight crime, not the police.”
“We work a lot with our police,” said Robert H. Lee, president of Hawaii Fire Fighters Association Local 1463. “We support all of our police officers. They not only help us protect ourselves, but we also work together to protect the public. We work a lot with them and as far as I know you are innocent until proven guilty. We also follow the law and due process. This is why we are here.
It was a show of force similar to a rally on June 25 before the officers’ initial appearance.
The crowd also included counter-demonstrators supporting the pursuit of the three officers. There were more than 30 gathered at the corners of the Ewa side of Alakea Street, including members of the Sykap family.
Lesley Gabrielle was with three other people holding signs and defending Iremamber, who she said bore the nickname “Baby”.
“We are happy to see the case continue. The Honolulu Police Department lied about what happened. They (the officers’ lawyers) tried to have the case closed and they tried to have the prosecutor disqualified. We are happy that these officers are having their day in court and that things are going as they would be for the rest of us if we were charged with murder or attempted murder. “