Seven weeks after Iremamber Sykap, a 16-year-old Micronesian boy, was shot and killed by Honolulu police, officials still have not released body camera footage of the shooting and preceding vehicle pursuit.

Now The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, a nonprofit that advocates for government transparency, is suing the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office in hopes of making the videos public.

Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm announces collaboration with the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.
Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm promised an independent investigation of two fatal police shootings. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

“The prosecutor’s office has been relying on this idea that just because there is a pending investigation they can withhold records, and that’s not the law,” Civil Beat Law Center Director Brian Black said. “And so we’re looking for clarification from the court as to under what circumstances the prosecutor’s office can withhold footage like this.”

A complaint filed on Thursday says the law center requested the footage from the prosecutor on May 4 and was denied the same day.

On May 17, Alm’s office issued a press release stating that it is investigating the shootings of Sykap and Lindani Myeni, a 29-year-old South African man who was killed by police in Nuuanu the week after Sykap died. The press release said the investigations would take between 30 and 60 days and that the prosecutor would release records, including body-worn camera footage, at the conclusion of the investigations.

The Honolulu Police Department already released edited videos of Myeni’s killing, and a judge this week ordered the full version to be released to his widow, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit. HPD has refused to release Sykap’s video, citing a state law that shields records involving juveniles. Sykap’s family, community members, legal experts, Honolulu Police Commission members and the Honolulu City Council chair have all cried foul over that decision and called for the release of the video.

Meanwhile, Hawaii News Now obtained and broadcast video from one officer who shot at Sykap’s car 10 times.

The law center’s complaint cites Hawaii’s public records law, which says that “the formation and conduct of public policy — the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies — shall be conducted as openly as possible.”

The organization is asking the court to order the immediate release of the footage, noting that faces of non-government employees may be blurred out.

Matthew Dvonch, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said on Thursday that the office hasn’t yet reviewed the complaint and therefore had no comment.

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