A lesbian couple that was vacationing in Hawaii last spring filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Honolulu police officer who violently arrested them after watching them hug and kiss in the aisles of a North Shore grocery store.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court by Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, alleges that Officer Bobby Harrison began harassing the women because he was motivated by his hostility towards gays.
UPDATE: The Honolulu Police Department has since launched an internal affairs investigation into Harrison based on the complaint.
Honolulu Police Department headquarters on South Beretania Street.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
According to the suit, Harrison was in uniform on March 3 when he saw Courtney Wilson, of Groton, Connecticut, and Taylor Guerrero, of San Pedro, California, holding hands, hugging each other and kissing in the store.
Harrison, in a loud voice, told Wilson and Guerrero to “take it somewhere else.”
The couple initially listened to Harrison and continued their shopping. But the alleged harassment didn’t stop.
The lawsuit states Harrison saw the couple acting lovingly toward one another a second time and threatened to have them thrown out of the store. He even asked the manager to issue them a written warning for trespassing, according to the suit.
Harrison approached the couple a third time while they were in the check-out line. When Wilson tried to call 911 to report the harassment, Harrison allegedly grabbed her to keep her from walking away. Guerrero tried to step-in, but was was thrown to the ground, according to the suit, which says Harrison was also hit during the scuffle.
Harrison arrested the two women for assault on a law enforcement officer and put them in restraints. The couple spent the next two days in jail until they were able to post bail. All the charges were eventually withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the case cannot be filed again.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, states that Harrison was motivated by his hostility toward gays. The City and County of Honolulu is also listed as a defendant.
Honolulu Police Department Spokeswoman Michelle Yu said Harrison has been an officer for 26 years and is currently assigned to District 2 in Wahiawa. Yu said the department would not comment on pending litigation.
The civil rights lawsuit is the second to come from the law offices of Eric Seitz in the past week. Seitz filed another lawsuit Oct. 20 against the Honolulu Police Department for the killing of Sheldon Haleck, a 38-year-old man who officers believed to be acting erratically.