HONOLULU – Grand jurors have declined to indict three Honolulu police officers in a shooting that killed a 16-year-old boy.
The Honolulu prosecuting attorney's office said it presented evidence to a grand jury Wednesday seeking indictments of the three officers. The grand jury declined to return indictments for any of the officers in the April 5 shooting that killed Iremamber Sykap, it said.
Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm is also investigating an April 14 Honolulu police shooting that killed 29-year-old Lindani Myeni.
Police said Sykap was driving a stolen Honda linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse snatching and car theft and led officers on a chase. Medical records provided by an attorney representing Sykap's mother and grandmother in a lawsuit say the teen was shot in the back of the head and shoulders.
Police have refused to release officer body camera footage from the shooting.
“Police work is difficult, and officers must sometimes make split-second decisions in potentially deadly situations,” interim Police Chief Rade Vanic said. “Despite the many challenges, we will continue to do the best we can to protect and serve our community. We are appreciative of the jury’s time and consideration.”
Eric Seitz, an attorney representing Sykap's family, said he wants to see transcripts from the grand jury proceedings.
“My clients are very distressed about the news that they got today,” he said, adding that he wants prosecutors to explain to the family what happened.
“They've had no contact from the prosecutor's office,” he said. “We had no knowledge of what was going on.”
Transcripts will be the only way the public can know what evidence prosecutors presented during the secret proceedings, said Kenneth Lawson, a professor at the University of Hawaii's law school.
“You've heard you can indict a ham sandwich. It doesn't take much to get an indictment from a grand jury," he said.
Lawson said he's not surprised there are no indictments, partly because the teen was Micronesian.
“Micronesians in Hawaii are viewed the way Black and brown people are viewed on the mainland — less than,” said Lawson, who is Black.
Jacquie Esser, a state deputy public defender not involved in the case, said she's also not surprised. “Grand juries largely favor police, so it's no surprise that they came back with a no bill" of indictment, she said.
Prosecutors could still seek charges against the officers through a preliminary hearing, where a judge determines if there's probable cause, she said.
“The Department is still reviewing the matter and won't be commenting further at this time,” said Matt Dvonch, special counsel to the prosecuting attorney.