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City can also represent Honolulu officers in lawsuit over teen's shooting, judge rules

Police Shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap
Cory Lum/AP
Pool, Honolulu Civil Beat
FILE - Honolulu Police Officers Geoffrey Thom, right, Christopher Fredeluces, second from right, and Zackary Ah Nee, third from right, sit in Judge William Domingo's courtroom before a preliminary trial begins, Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in Honolulu.

HONOLULU — Honolulu attorneys may represent both the city and three police officers in a civil lawsuit by the family of a 16-year-old boy shot and killed by police, a judge ruled Friday in response to a motion by the teen’s relatives arguing the officers need to have their own lawyers to avoid conflicts of interest.

Honolulu police shot Iremamber Sykap after he led officers on a high-speed chase and refused commands to stop.

Honolulu prosecutors filed murder and attempted murder charges against three officers after a grand jury declined to indict them, but a judge found there was no probable cause to support the charges.

Police Shooting-Hawaii Teen Killed
Cory Lum/AP
Pool Honolulu Civil Beat
Defense Attorney Thomas Otake stands in front of a video projection of police camera videos entered as evidence in Judge William M. Domingo's courtroom during the third day of preliminary hearings for three Honolulu police officers in the killing of Iremamber Sykap, Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Honolulu. (Cory Lum/Honolulu Civil Beat via AP, Pool)

Sykap's grandmother and mother filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the officers.

Their attorney, Eric Seitz, objected to allowing the same attorney to represent the city and the officers.

If the officers are ordered to pay punitive damages, the city wouldn't be liable for that money, presenting a conflict of interest, Seitz said. The city and the officers could have different interests during settlement talks, he said.

“There are many levels of conflicts here,” he said.

Seitz said he wants to ensure early in the process that all the parties are properly represented. Sykap's family doesn't want to go through a trial and later have the officers ask for a new one because they were unsatisfied with the representation they received, Seitz said.

Deputy Honolulu Corporation Counsel Derek Mayeshiro said the officers signed waivers consenting to be represented by the city.

“At this time, the city is fully defending the officers and the city," he said. “We are defending the officers vigorously in this case.”

Judge Dean Ochiai denied the motion to disqualify Mayeshiro.

“The police officers have a right to choose who they want as counsel,” the judge said.

Ochiai granted the officers more time to respond to an amended lawsuit. Seitz had opposed giving them additional time, saying the city is delaying the lawsuit. Mayeshiro denied stalling.

“We need to be able to move forward,” Seitz said. “We have families that are grieving.”

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