Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, a lesbian couple from Los Angeles, say they were harassed and thrown in jail by a cop while on vacation in Hawaii—all because he didn’t like the sight of the same-sex couple kissing in public. The two have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging discrimination, and the Honolulu Police Department says it has opened an internal investigation.
Speaking with Hawaii News Now, the couple said that on the second day of their vacation on Oahu, they stopped in a local grocery store. As they perused the aisles they held hands, and at one point, kissed. That’s when police officer Bobby Harris (who, just for the record, wasn’t on duty, but was shopping while wearing his uniform) allegedly started to badger them.
"He was like, you girls, you girls can't do that in here," according to Guerrero.
The two women claim the officer continued to harangue them, even following them to the checkout counter and threatening to have them arrested for trespassing. The scene escalated when Harrison allegedly grabbed Wilson—who was calling the police on her cell phone—by the wrist. The two told theChicago Tribune that Harrison got physical, “bumping his belly” against Wilson and stating, “You girls don't know how to act. You don't know the difference between a motel and a grocery store.”
"I got punched in the face by him," Wilson told HNN. "I split my nose open. We were on the ground."
Since Harrison didn’t have any handcuffs with him (again, he was off-duty), he had other employees detain the two while he found zip ties. "They took us down to the basement,” says Wilson, “where they continued to harass us about our conduct in the store, asking us if it was worth it, if we were happy where we are.”
The couple faced a felonious charge of assaulting a police officer and spent three days in jail. They say the $1,300 per person they spent on bail exhausted the funds they brought with them to Hawaii. Instead of returning home, the two women were forced to stay in Oahu as a condition of their release. With no money, they say they slept in a park, stayed with friends and even considered going to a homeless shelter. They ended up cleaning vacation rentals for money.
Charges were ultimately dropped, but not before the couple had spent five months on the island to comply with court orders. Wilson and Guerrero are now suing Officer Harrison, the city of Honolulu and the employees who aided in their arrest for reimbursement of costs and fees, as well as general and punitive damages.
Interestingly, HNN reports that surveillance camera footage of the incident from the store has, “disappeared.”