Family members of Iremamber Sykap, a 16-year-old Micronesian boy killed by Honolulu police last month, are suing the city and officers involved in his death, attorney Eric Seitz announced on Friday.

Akiwine Sykap, Sykap’s grandmother and guardian, and Yovita Lucio, Sykap’s mother, allege in the complaint that officers were negligent and wrongfully caused the teen’s death during a police pursuit of an allegedly stolen vehicle on April 5.

People sleep along Kalakaua Avenue and Philip Street where a memorial was erected to honor Iremamber Sykap after being shot by the Honolulu Police Department. Photo taken on April 14, 2021
Community members erected a memorial for Sykap after he was killed last month. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Sykap’s family has “suffered great mental anguish, suffering, pain and anger due to the loss of their young son, grandson and brother,” the complaint states.

HPD declined to comment on Friday afternoon.

Investigations by police and prosecutors into the incident continue. HPD has released little information about what motivated three officers to shoot the boy. They have only provided basic information about events leading up to the shooting, including that the car Sykap was driving was connected to other crimes.

HPD has noted a replica gun was found in the car, although the department hasn’t stated whether that was a factor in officers pulling their triggers.

Despite public pressure, HPD has refused to release body camera footage of the incident, citing a state law that shields records involving juvenile proceedings.

Iremamber Sykap, 16, was killed on April 5 in a police shooting in Honolulu. Courtesy: Sykap family

However, Hawaii News Now obtained and broadcast footage from one officer this week. It shows an officer standing behind the white Honda Sykap was driving and shooting into the car 10 times. The car then moves forward and falls into a canal.

HPD Chief Susan Ballard stated at an April press conference that the Honda rammed two marked police cars, but that cannot be seen in the footage HNN obtained.

The lawsuit alleges that Ballard’s statement isn’t true and that the officers did not fire in self-defense, which the suit says violates HPD policy.

HPD’s use of force policy, which was updated just days before the Sykap shooting, states that officers may not shoot at vehicles unless the driver is threatening someone with deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself or if other specific circumstances warrant the use of deadly force.

In general, deadly force may only be used when officers “reasonably believe” it is necessary to defend their lives or others who are in “immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury,” according to HPD’s policy.

According to the lawsuit, Sykap had stopped the car before officers fired multiple shots into it.

Sykap was “unarmed and posed no risk of harm to any of the Defendants,” the lawsuit states.

The vehicle then “lurched forward and ended up in a ditch” while officers continued to shoot their guns at the car, according to the lawsuit. Officers fired more than a dozen rounds, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges that since Sykap was killed, the city has made “false and misleading statements” and “taunted and threatened” Sykap’s family.

The complaint also takes issue with the city’s refusal to release video of the incident and says it failed to explain the circumstances of the death to Sykap’s family.

The suit follows another wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city last month by the family of Lindani Myeni, who was shot and killed by HPD officers days after Sykap’s death.

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