Judge rules “no probable cause”, tosses case after cops wrongly charged in fatal shooting of teen

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HONOLULU, HI- According to reports, after five days of testimony, on Wednesday, August 18th, a judge ruled that there was no probable cause to charge the three Honolulu police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.

District Court Judge William Domingo dismissed the charges against Officers Geoffrey Thom, Zachary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces who were involved in the April 5th shooting that killed Sykap, who at the time, was reportedly high on methamphetamine in a stolen car.

The judge stated in his ruling:

“The court finds that there is no probable cause that Geoffrey Tom committed murder, that Ah Nee committed attempted murder, and Officer Fredeluces committed attempted murder.”

According to court documents, Sykap was driving a stolen car that was linked to a slew of crimes leading up to the shooting. Those crimes included armed robbery and a burglary. 

When police tried to stop Sykap on April 5th, they reported that he sped off through city streets and down the highway, weaving through traffic at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, leading officers on a high-speed chase.

The stolen car eventually stopped on a city street and officers swarmed around it, giving verbal commands to the teen and his brother, who was the passenger, to get out of the vehicle.

Both suspects ignored the officers’ commands. During the incident, Sykap also crashed his vehicle into a patrol car. 

While handing down his decision, Domingo said:

“The reasonable person would think, ‘well, you know, is it over.’ And it’s not over at that point.”

The judge stated that the suspect vehicle began moving again, thus placing the officers in immediate danger. Reportedly, that is when Officer Thom fired his duty weapon through the rear window of the car. Sykap subsequently drove the car into the Kalakaua Stream.

Prosecutors attempted to claim that no one was in danger when the stolen car began moving again. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Van Marter said in a statement:

“Do you see Thom on the back of the vehicle shooting for no reason? No one’s in front of the vehicle. He was definitely not in danger where he was. No one’s in front of the car except for an empty patrol car. Still, no one in front of that car and even pedestrians, there’s no pedestrians. There’s no one around there.”

Arguing back, Defense Attorney Tommy Otake stated:

“They were in the zone of danger of the vehicle. You don’t have to be right in the front. You don’t have to be completely on the side. If you’re close enough to it, you’re in danger.”

The judge said that the teen’s actions impacted the officers’ response to the perceived threat. He noted:

“If there was no pursuit in the beginning and there were just people in the car and officers just came up and started shooting from behind without any type of provocation, but that’s not what we have here.”

According to investigators, Sykap was hit by eight of the 10 rounds Officer Thom fired. He was struck in the back, neck, left arm, and in the back of his head. Investigators added that Officer Fredeluces and Officer Ah Nee also fired their weapons during the incident.

Authorities stated that investigators recovered a replica firearm in the stolen vehicle as well as a magazine loaded with live ammunition and a magazine that was empty. The medical examiner concluded that Sykap had methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death.

Reportedly, a grand jury decided not to indict the three officers, so Honolulu prosecutors filed charges against the officers on their own. They argued that the officers should face trial regardless of the grand jury’s decision.

The prosecutors charged Officer Thom with murder and Officer Fredeluces and Officer Ah Nee with second-degree attempted murder. 

State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers President Malcolm Lutu noted that the judge’s decision marked the second time that the legal system found the officers’ actions to be justified. He said in a statement:

“Today isn’t a day of celebration, rather, it proves that the officers’ decision-making was justified. It does not take away from the tragedy of what happened and the impact that it has on many families.”

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Ex-wife of judge involved in deciding whether to charge cop for justified shooting represented the victims’ families

May 22nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI- On June 25th, a Milwaukee County judge will decide whether charges should be filed against former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah in connection with the 2016 fatal shooting of Jay Anderson Jr. 

According to reports, the ex-wife of the Milwaukee County judge tasked with making this decision, is also an attorney who has represented the family of the suspect the officer killed.

In June 2020, Deja Vishny, the ex-wife of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Yamahiro, was one of two attorneys representing the families of Alvin Cole and Jay Anderson Jr.

Officer Mensah reportedly fatally shot both Cole and Anderson in two separate incidents. Anderson was reportedly fatally shot on June 23, 2016 after Anderson lunged for a gun during a traffic stop after the officer spotted the weapon and ordered him to put his hands up. 

Cole was fatally shot after the teen opened fired on police with a stolen handgun on February 2, 2020. According to reports, both shootings were ruled as justified, as was a third officer-involved shooting involving Officer Mensah.

During summer 2020, Vishny and fellow attorney Kimberley Motley filed complaints and open records requests on behalf of their clients, the Cole and Anderson families. During a protest outside the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD), Vishny declared:

“We want Joseph Mensah to be terminated from his employment. He should not be a police officer. He’s killed three people in five years. He’s fired 19 shots. He has not been disciplined by the police department for what he has done.”

At the time, Officer Mensah was a five-year veteran of WPD. He was also the subject of a Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission (PFC) investigation and the target of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa for months.

In July 2020, the PFC voted to suspend Officer Mensah and assigned a former federal prosecutor to re-investigate the 2016 shooting of Anderson, even though it had already been ruled justified by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.

At the same time, the Wauwatosa Common Council reportedly passed a non-binding resolution calling for the city administrator and the police chief to fire Officer Mensah, which the mayor agreed to sign. At the time, Mayor Dennis McBride said in a statement:

“I’m signing it today. We understand, it’s not just community pressure, that’s substantial. We hear it. We’ve heard it, but the experts tell us it’s extraordinarily rare, perhaps unique for one officer to be involved in three shootings that result in death while employed, especially in a five-year period.”

For months, Officer Mensah was subjected to harassment by protesters, including an attack on him and his Milwaukee police officer girlfriend at her home while her children were inside. Reportedly, one of the protesters fired a shotgun at the door of the home, barely missing Officer Mensah.

While Officer Mensah continued to face harassment, the Anderson family kept up the pressure on the PFC and the mayor. The PFC special investigator’s report ultimately concluded that the officer should be fired. 

The report allegedly stated that permitting Officer Mensah to remain an officer “creates an extraordinary, unwarranted, and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department and the City of Wauwatosa.”

Officer Mensah reached an agreement with the city to resign from its police department effective November 30, 2020 in exchange for a compensation package worth $125,000. Officer Mensah was also later cleared by federal civil rights investigators in a separate probe. 

Even so, Motley continued to demand the court order a new investigation into the death of Anderson. Under Wisconsin law, a “circuit judge may permit the filing of a complaint,” even if the district attorney refuses to do so.

However, before that can happen, a judge must find probable cause to believe an individual could be criminally charged. During a third court hearing before Yamahiro on Wednesday, May 19th, Motley argued that Anderson never presented a threat to Officer Mensah and that the officer’s actions were “contrary to his privilege for use of force.”

As of this writing, Vishny’s current level of involvement in the case is unclear, but she continues to work for Motley’s law firm on an “of counsel” basis. Her ex-husband, who also happens to be a former defense attorney, is expected to issue his decision on June 25th.

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Officer indicted for murder after shooting suspect who was trying to run him over with a car

May 10th, 2021

BRISTOL, VA – A Bristol police officer was indicted by a grand jury for murder Monday in the shooting death of a man who refused to exit his vehicle in the parking lot of a motel and drove towards an officer.

Bristol Officer Jonathan Brown was released on a $25,000 bond after turning himself in to the Virginia State Police on Tuesday following the indictment, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Roanoke Don Caldwell.

Caldwell agreed to Brown’s released on bond:

“That’s the commonwealth’s recommendation. I do not consider him a flight risk or a danger to the community pending the trial.”

Brown was indicted Monday by a Bristol Circuit Court grand jury on charges of murder, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and shooting into an occupied vehicle in the March 30 shooting death of Jonathan Kohler, 31, of Bristol, Tennessee.

The incident began when police received a 911 call just before 4:30 a.m. from a caller at a motel about shots being fired. Officers responded to the call and encountered Kohler in the driver’s seat of a 1994 Ford Mustang, according to a Virginia State Police news release.

The statement said Kohler refused officers’ repeated orders to exit the vehicle and suddenly drove the vehicle at Brown:

“As officers were verbally engaged with Kohler, he backed up and then drove forward in an attempt to exit the parking lot, at which point one of the officers fired at Kohler’s vehicle.

“He then put the Mustang into drive and sped towards one of the officers. The officer fired at the suspect vehicle as it came at him.”

Kohler, 31, was struck by gunfire and died at the scene. No officers were injured during the incident.

Caldwell, who was appointed by a judge to prosecute the case, refused to comment on the evidence in this case:

“I don’t believe in trying cases in the public eye. The evidence will be presented during trial, and a trier of fact, either a judge or jury, will make a decision.”

Officer Brown has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the charges and an internal affairs investigation. This is routine procedure in a police-involved shooting.

A statement issued by Bristol City Manager and Attorney Randall Eads and Mayor Bill Hartley seemed to prejudge the officer’s guilt prior to the completion of the investigation:

“(The internal affairs) investigation was not conducted contemporaneously with the criminal investigation due to procedural issues that could have hampered the criminal investigation. The investigation is expected to be completed within 10 days.

“We do not condone, nor will we tolerate the unnecessary use of force by our police officers. There is a time and place for the use of force, and force must be used sparingly and within the bounds of the law.”

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Officer charged with manslaughter in shooting death of Bennie Edwards, who charged officers with a knife

March 19. 2021

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma District Attorney’s Office charged a city police officer involved with the shooting death of Bennie Edwards late last year with manslaughter on Thursday.

Bennie Edwards, a black man with mental illness, was armed with a knife and charged at officers before the shooting.

 

District Attorney David Prater filed the charges against Sgt. Clifford Holman.  In filing the charges, Prater said:

“There are always many things to consider when determining whether or not an officer’s use of deadly force is lawfully justified or not. Any loss of human life is tragic, and I take these decisions very seriously.”

The incident occurred on December 11, when officers were called to a report of a homeless man on the sidewalk in front of Extra Cash Gold and Loan on Hefner Road in the city. Police said the business owner had called police about 60-year-old Edwards hanging out in front of his business.

In an affidavit, investigating detective Bryn Carter said that the first officer to arrive, Sgt. Keith Duroy, requested backup from a unit carrying a taser. Duroy made contact with Edwards, who was armed with a knife and told the officer to leave.

Sgt. Holman arrived on the scene with a taser. Another officer also arrived but did not deploy a taser or fire shots during the incident.

Edwards continued holding the knife despite multiple orders from police to drop it. When he refused, Sgt. Holman deployed his taser, which had no effect. Edward ran toward Duroy with the knife after the failed taser attempt, and then turned and began running away from the officers.

Both DuRoy and Sgt. Holman fired rounds at Edwards. The affidavit filed by Carter read:

“(Holman) fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away, striking him in his upper middle back causing his death.”

Holman’s attorney released a statement saying his client acted accordingly, and that the law firm will vigorously defend the officer:

“(Holman) acted lawfully, and we are proud to represent him as we fight these charges in a court of law.”

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) also defended the actions of Sgt. Holman, saying he acted as he was trained. Police Union President John George said:

“In this situation, when faced with a disturbed individual armed with a deadly weapon, our officers used multiple methods of de-escalation and less-lethal options to try to avoid the use of deadly force.

“When those efforts were ineffective, the officers were put in peril when they were charged by the armed person. We maintain that Sgt. Holman upheld his duty and followed the law.”

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