A Los Angeles lesbian couple vacationing in Hawaii in March claim they were harassed, beaten and arrested for kissing in a grocery store.
Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero filed a lawsuit against Honolulu police officer Bobby Harrison, claiming police harassed and assaulted them after seeing a display affection in a Foodland store, Hawaii News Now reports.
“We were just dancing, being goofy, you know. Gave her a hug. We were just like, ‘hey, we’re happy to be here,'” Wilson told reports on Oct. 28, according to Hawaii News Now.
Harrison was reportedly off duty but still in uniform when he was shopping and began to yell at them.
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“He was like, ‘You girls! You girls can't do that in here,'” Guerrero said.
The couple did not pay much attention to Harrison's comments and continued shopping, but when they started being affectionate again, Harrison reportedly followed them to the checkout line and threatened to have them removed from the store.
Wilson, bewildered by Harrison's behavior toward them, called police. As she was on the phone with dispatch, Harrison reportedly grabbed her by the waist.
“He was bumping his belly against Courtney,” Guerrero said, according to NY Daily News. “He said, ‘You girls don't know how to act. You don't know the difference between a motel and a grocery store.’”
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Guerrero said in her lawsuit that she tried to intervene between her girlfriend and Harrison, but the officer pushed her to the ground and punched Wilson in the face.
Harrison did not have handcuffs with him and reportedly instructed store employees to restrain the women as customers watched.
“They took us down to the basement of Foodland 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,” Wilson said.
The couple were arrested and charged with felony assault on an officer. They each paid a bail bondsman $1,300 for a bail that was $12,000 each after having spent three days in jail.
As a condition of their release, Wilson and Guerrero had to remain on the island of Oahu. The couple has reportedly been been forced to stay in Hawaii, living with family friends, kind strangers, and even at homeless shelters.
The couple has also filed a suit against the city of Honolulu. Their Honolulu attorney, Eric Seitz, said their charges have been dismissed.
The Honolulu Police Department launched an internal investigation into the matter on Oct. 28. Harrison, a 26-year veteran of Honolulu law enforcement, remains on active duty, and it is not clear whether he will be placed on leave during the investigation.
Research from Human Rights Campaign Foundation from 2009 cited FBI data that found sexual orientation as the third-highest motivator for hate crime incidents in the U.S.