A police witness said Tuesday that body camera footage shows that two Honolulu officers were not standing directly in front of or behind a stolen Honda Civic before police shot into it in April, but that their lives nonetheless may have been at risk.

The testimony was part of a preliminary hearing in which three Honolulu police officers are charged for their roles in the April shooting death of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap and wounding of his brother Mark Sykap.

Prosecuting attorney Christopher Van Marter, right, looks on as defense attorney Thomas Otake raises documents in the district courtroom of Judge William M. Domingo during preliminary hearings for three Honolulu police officers in the killing of Iremamber Sykap on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Honolulu. (POOL PHOTO/Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
Defense attorney Thomas Otake, left, said officers were in “the zone of danger” of the stolen Honda. Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter disputes that. Pool photo: Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser 2021

Officer Geoffrey Thom is charged with murder for the killing of Iremamber Sykap, the driver of the stolen car. Thom shot 10 times through the back windshield. In a report filed after the incident, Thom said he shot to protect himself, fellow officers and members of the public.

Officer Zackary Ah Nee is charged with attempted murder for shooting and injuring Mark Sykap, who was in the passenger seat. Officer Christopher Fredeluces is charged with attempted murder for shooting at Iremamber Sykap in the driver’s seat, though he missed.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Van Marter suggested with his questioning that officers were not in immediate danger. Charging documents state the officers shot “without provocation.”

“At any time, is anyone behind that car when it reverses, based on your review of the body worn camera video?” Van Marter asked Honolulu Police Lt. Brandon Nakasone.

Honolulu police Lt. Brandon Nakasone listens to questions from defense attorney Richard Sing, reflected in the plexiglass barrier, in the district courtroom of Judge William M. Domingo during preliminary hearings for three Honolulu police officers in the killing of Iremamber Sykap on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Honolulu. (POOL PHOTO/Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser).
Honolulu Police Lt. Brandon Nakasone testified that body camera footage shows no one in front of or behind the car at the time that shots rang out. Pool photo: Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser 2021

“Based on the body worn camera, I would say no,” said Nakasone, who works in HPD’s Professional Standards Office. 

“At any time, was anyone ever in front of that white Honda?” Van Marter asked.

“Based on the videos that we saw, there was not anyone in front,” Nakasone said.

During cross-examination, the officers’ attorneys tried to establish that the officers were in harm’s way, justifying their use of deadly force.

Attorney Richard Sing, who represents Thom, emphasized in his questioning that the car could have veered left or right at any time.

“Would you agree that at least in portions of the video, at certain times, both Officer Ah Nee and Officer Fredeluces were within the zone of danger of that vehicle?” Ah Nee’s defense attorney Thomas Otake asked Nakasone. 

“I would agree with that statement,” Nakasone said.

Van Marter also questioned Nakasone about Ah Nee’s alleged justification for shooting Mark Sykap: that he believed he saw a gun in Sykap’s lap.

“Did you see anything that you recognized as a firearm on the passenger’s lap, based on your training and experience and use of firearms?” Van Marter asked, referencing a still image from body camera footage.

“I did not,” Nakasone said.

“Ah Nee is literally right by the passenger door. When you listen to his video, did he ever say ‘gun’?” Van Marter asked.

“I did not hear that, no,” Nakasone said.

In response to questions from Otake, Nakasone testified that body cameras don’t necessarily capture everything an officer sees, that a BB gun was found on the passenger side floorboard after the shooting and that Ah Nee noted in his police report that Iremamber Sykap was making “furtive movements” in the car before he opened fire. He did not specify what those movements were. 

The preliminary hearing will likely conclude on Wednesday, Judge William Domingo said. Ultimately, the judge will decide whether probable cause exists for the cases to proceed to trial. 

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