HONOLULU — The Honolulu Police Department opened an internal investigation Wednesday into allegations that an officer wrongfully arrested a vacationing lesbian couple after seeing them kissing in a grocery store.
Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, who were visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles, said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that they were harassed and arrested because the officer didn’t like their public displays of affection in a Foodland store on Oahu’s North Shore.
They were walking through the aisles holding hands and at one point hugged and kissed, the lawsuit said: Officer Bobby Harrison, who was shopping in uniform, “observed their consensual romantic contact and, in a loud voice, ordered plaintiffs to stop and ‘take it somewhere else.’ ”
The women complied and continued shopping, the lawsuit said. When Harrison again saw them being affectionate with each other, he threatened to have them thrown out of the store.
While the women were in the check-out line, Harrison grabbed Wilson by the wrist, said the couple’s attorney, Eric Setiz. Wilson started to call 911, and Guerrero tried to get in between her girlfriend and the officer, he said.
“Both girls end up on the ground; there’s an altercation that takes place,” Seitz said. Harrison pushed Guerrero.
“She then kicked the police officer, which apparently enraged him even more,” Seitz said, adding that Harrison punched Wilson after she hit him in the face.
The women were arrested and charged with felony assault on an officer. They each posted $12,000 bail and had to remain in Honolulu as a condition of their release, Seitz said.
The charges were eventually dismissed, he said.
Harrison has been on the force for 26 years, said department spokeswoman Michelle Yu. She said she would pass a message from The Associated Press seeking comment from him to his commander. He remains on full active duty.
Foodland, which is not part of the lawsuit, apologized to the women, Seitz said.
The incident happened on the second day of their vacation, which was their first trip to Hawaii, he said.