By: Amoka Mele
Three Honolulu Police Department (HPD) police officers facing murder charges made their initial appearance in Hawaii District Court on Friday morning June 25, 2021.
Officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces appeared in person before a district judge. Thom has been charged with one count of second-degree murder. The two other officers ― Ah Nee, 26, and Fredeluces, 40 ― both face attempted murder charges. If convicted, all three face a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
At the hearing, the officers did not make any statements and did not have the details of the charges against them read out loud. Their next hearing will be on July 20th.
This case is unprecedented because Honolulu’s Prosecutor’s Office moved forward with the criminal complaint after a grand jury could not find probable cause in the officers’ actions.
The officers have not been arrested and are not in custody. Their defense attorney described the rarity of cases where people charged with murder and attempted murder are not taken into custody. Defense counsels are also shocked at the charges absent a grand jury verdict.
The three officers have been charged after shooting and killing 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap on April 5, 2021, following a police chase. Skyap was driving a vehicle had been stolen earlier that weekend. The vehicle was reported to be part of a string of crimes that included another car theft, and an armed robbery earlier before the police chase and shooting. Officers engaged in a pursuit of Skyap and his five other passengers inside the car. At the conclusion of the pursuit, the officers shot Skyap through the back windshield of the car, killing him. Though only 16 years old, reportedly Sykap had already been arrested more than 30 times.
City Prosecutors described the three officers’ official statements on why they used deadly force as not being consistent with the bodycam video and believe that at no time were their lives or the lives of any bystanders in danger. It is for this reason, that city prosecutors are proceeding with criminal charges.
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The Honolulu City Prosecutor is 67-year-old Hawaii born and reared Steve Alm. After graduating from University High School at Manoa, Alm earned his bachelors and master’s degrees in Education from the University of Oregon in 1979. In 1983, Alm received his Law degree at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California.
Alm at one time had bar memberships in both Hawaii and Minnesota. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in 1985 under former Prosecutor Charles Marsland. Alm worked in this post until 1994, serving as Felony Team Supervisor, Director of the District and Family Court Divisions, as well as personally handling several complex homicide cases. In 1994, Alm was nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton and served as United States Attorney for six and one-half years, solidifying a reputation as a tough defender of the law. In fact, a Honolulu newspaper cartoonist featured a caricature of Alm marked with a pair of boxing gloves marked, “Law and Order.” In 2001, Alm was appointed as a Hawaii Circuit Court judge – a position that he held until his retirement in 2016.
In 2004, Alm organized the design and implementation of the HOPE probation program (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement), which uses intense supervision to reduce probation violations by drug offenders and others.
When he ran for Honolulu City Prosecutor in 2020, Alm ran on a platform of restoring trust to an office that has been marred by the corruption scandal involving another former Honolulu deputy prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha, and her husband, former Honolulu Police Department Chief Louis Kealoha, who have since been convicted of federal crimes and sentenced to prison. Alm is the first elected City Prosecutor since Keith Kaneshiro, who ended his term on paid leave for nearly two years after being named a target of the federal investigation into the Kealohas.
So, let’s deconstruct the extenuating circumstances to show this case as political theater. Alm is born and raised in Hawaii. He went to all private schools – high school, college, and law school. While serving as a Democrat appointed U.S. Attorney, Alm’s brother – Robert Alm – served as Senior Vice President of First Hawaiian Bank. This was a conflict of interest that the Nation of Hawaii brought to light in 1996. His mentor was former City Prosecutor Charles Marsland, whose estate gave a $3 million donation to Honolulu Shriners. This is still the largest donation ever received by Shriners. How do public prosecutors on government salaries earn millions upon millions of dollars? Let’s continue. Alm designs HOPE which defers guilty pleas if defendants honor the terms of their probations.
Sounds to me like a 16-year-old criminal who had been arrested 30 times, stole two cars, committed an armed robbery, and then ran from the law in a high-speed chase needed more than HOPE. What would have happened to a family hit head out by a 16-year-old boy, already 30 times arrested person, evading police in a high-speed chase? The family would have died. What would have happened to the victims of the next carjacking or armed robbery? Had those three officers not acted with deadly force at the end of the pursuit, someone innocent would have died and the police would have been in trouble for not doing their jobs. We live in a time where officers must run toward gunfire to prevent mass murders. We do not live-in times where cops can cordon an area and wait for negotiations that HOPE for a peaceful outcome.
So now, an Oregon and California educated, Bill Clinton backed, wealthy career public prosecutor, with a history of seem tough but act soft rulings is going after three police officers for murder on the eve of national police reform act debates. Seems so very fishy!
So now, a career jurist, egotistically refuses to accept the verdict of a grand jury consisting of 12 of Hawaii’s citizens. Judges, lawyers, and career politicians grow to believe themselves above the law…not for me, but for thee. They grow to believe that only they know what is best for the public. This case is so par for the course here in the People’s Democratic Republic of Hawaii.
What I HOPE is that this political spectacle does not make an already embattled police department even more hesitant to do their jobs. What I HOPE for this case is that it does not make good cops leave the department or good candidates chose another occupation. Crime rose and HPD came to be known as the worst police department in which to be a cop in the United States. Hugh crime, corruption, and bad morale in HPD did not occur overnight. It occurred while Steve Alm served as a career prosecutor, attorney, and judge from 1985-2016 and it occurred while the Democrats have run this state.
The only thing Steve Alm is tough on are Conservatives. If he was so tough, he should have put those boxing gloves down, got out from behind that bench, and put on a badge. If he was so tough, he should not have gone to private schools in Oregon and California and become a smoke but not inhale hippy. He’s not tough, not tough at all. He’s just another Democrat Overlord trying to take our money and our land and tell us what to do.