Who is Geoffrey Thom? Honolulu cop who fatally shot boy, 16, eight times charged
HONOLULU, HAWAII: A policeman, Geoffrey HL Thom, has been charged with the murder of a 16-year-old boy, Iremamber Sykap, on June 15. Two other officers are charged with attempted murder in connection with the fatal shooting of the minor, Honolulu prosecutors informed on June 15. The charges come after a grand jury declined to indict the same three officers last week in the fatal shooting of Sykap on April 5.
Thom was charged with one count of murder in the second degree. The other two officers, Zackary K Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces, were each charged with one count of attempted murder in the second degree. Instances of cops being charged with counts of murders are not uncommon. Back in May 2021, Tacoma police officer Matthew Collins and his colleague Christopher Burbank were charged with the second-degree murder of Manuel Ellis, the Black man who died while being restrained by them in 2020. Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died in handcuffs while being restrained by Tacoma police on March 3, 2020.
Who is Geoffrey HL Thom?
Thom is a five-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department. The two other officers, Ah Nee and Fredeluces, served in the department for three and 10 years respectively. If convicted, all three officers face life in prison without parole. Comments from the officers were not available. Interim Honolulu Police Department Chief Rade Vanic said that he was rather 'surprised' by the prosecutor’s decision to seek charges against the officers after a grand jury decided not to indict. "This is highly unusual, and we are not aware of a similar action having been taken in the past. While we await the court’s decision, we will continue to protect and serve the community as we have always done," he said in a statement.
Deputy prosecutor Christopher Van Marter claimed in court documents that officer Thom fired 10 rounds into the rear window of Sykap's Honda "without provocation". Eight of the shots hit Sykap in the back of the head, back of the neck, upper back and left arm. He was declared dead after arriving at the hospital. The prosecutor noted that officer Fredeluces also fired one shot but it did not hit Sykap.
Van Marter further claimed that while Thom said that Sykap's Honda rammed into his patrol car, body camera footage didn’t prove that. Thom’s patrol car sustained 'a few minor paint chips and some black scuff marks', according to Van Marter. He further claimed that Ah Nee fired multiple times at Mark Sykap, Iremamber’s brother who was also in the car. Mark suffered gunshot wounds in his right shoulder and right hand. Police have refused to release the body camera footage from the shooting at the moment.
Eric Seitz, the attorney representing Sykap’s family in a civil lawsuit against the city, said he was happy that prosecutors were pursuing the case. "We have suspected from the beginning when we began to get information about how the events unfolded, that the shooting was entirely unjustified,” he said. "Now that we’ve seen the further evidence that’s contained and attached to the charges, there’s no question in our minds that this was an event that could have been and should have been prevented." Sykap's family’s lawsuit alleges negligence, assault and battery. In addition to this, the lawsuit also demands a state court to award damages, reimburse costs and declare that the officers’ use of deadly force was unlawful and unauthorized.
The three officers are scheduled to appear in court on June 25. Their police powers will be removed and they will be assigned to desk duty. Police have claimed that Sykap was driving a stolen Honda linked to an armed robbery, burglary, purse snatching and car theft and led officers on a chase before the shooting.