HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An eyewitness is disputing the accounts of a lesbian couple at the center of a discrimination lawsuit that alleges a Honolulu police officer arrested them because they were kissing.
The woman, who asked not to be identified because she feared retaliation, said she was in the Pupukea Foodland in March when the women were arrested and says the women's actions were inappropriate.
Meanwhile, in court testimony, the officer who arrested them said he tried to get the women out of the store because he believed the women were being "lewd," and that the couple was subsequently hostile.
Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero filed a lawsuit this week against the Honolulu Police Department and officer Bobby Harrison, a 26-year veteran of the force, alleging he harassed and arrested them because he didn't like their public displays of affection. The Los Angeles couple, who were on Oahu on vacation, believes they were targeted because they're lesbian.
HPD has opened an internal investigation based on the allegations in the lawsuit, but won't say if Harrison has been placed on leave.
The eyewitness said she doesn't believe Harrison was discriminating against the couple, but intervening because they were being inappropriate.
"There was French kissing. Their shorts were really short. They were grabbing bottoms and lifting shirts," she said.
She said she was appalled by what she saw in the aisles of the grocery store.
In court testimony, Harrison said he saw the women from 30 feet away. "I noticed the two defendants were in an embrace with one another. Inappropriately all over each other in a long, heated kiss in the back of the store," he said. "After I told them to stop I walked toward them because they wouldn't stop. In my opinion it was lewd conduct in what they were doing. I wouldn't want my children to see that."
Wilson and Guerrero dispute the officer's claims, saying they were being affectionate but not lewd.
"I spun her around and we were holding each other like this and you know we were just talking," Wilson said. "We just had a moment and we kissed. Kissed on my cheek. Spun her around and continued walking down the aisle."
Harrison testified that he approached the couple again at the register, telling them that the store was going to have them warned for trespassing.
The witness backs up those claims: "He was asking them to go. You're drawing to much attention, you're causing a scene just leave the store and they chose not to do that," she said.
Wilson called 911 to report the officer for harassment.
"The officer told me to step into another line. I was on the phone with 911 and that's when she told the officer f... you," Wilson said.
Harrison acknowledged the moment: "I said excuse me. She repeated f*** off. I told her you don't talk to a policeman like that."
That's when the scuffle broke out, she said.
"I can't remember if it was an open hand or a punch but she got him right in the face," the witness said.
Wilson described the encounter this way: "He was choking her out like this with his hand backwards. I came over and I tried to shove him off of her. He was a big man. He's not moving. The officer did get hit. I broke his sunglasses. He did get hit in the face. That's when I got hit in the face."
The officer denied striking or choking either woman.
Wilson and Guerrero were arrested and charged with felony assault of a police officer; they had to use their vacation money to post bail.
As a condition of their release, they couldn't leave Oahu and wound up sleeping in a park. After five months, prosecutors threw out the case, said their attorney, Eric Seitz.
Defense attorneys say the case was dropped by prosecutors after the Foodland surveillance videos disappeared and they made a motion that would force the officer back under oath.
To read the lawsuit, click here.