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Honolulu to pay $80K in lesbian couple’s wrongful-arrest lawsuit

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Courtney Wilson, left, and Taylor Guerrero pose for a photo in Honolulu last year.

Honolulu has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a lawsuit from two gay women who allege a police officer wrongfully arrested them after seeing them kissing in a grocery store.

Details of the settlement were announced today in federal court in Honolulu. It’s still subject to City Council approval. The council is expected to consider the settlement at a July 6 meeting, said Honolulu Deputy Corporation Counsel Nicolette Winter.

“The Department of the Corporation Counsel believes that the tentative settlement is in the best interests of the city,” Corporation Counsel Donna Leong said in a statement.

Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero were visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles last year when, according to their lawsuit, 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, and she started to call 911, the women described last year. All three got into a scuffle and Harrison arrested them. They were charged with felony assault on an officer and spent three days in jail. Charges were eventually dismissed.

After the lawsuit was filed, the Honolulu Police Department opened an internal investigation. “The internal investigation was completed, and the allegations were not sustained,” department spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email. Harrison retired at the end of last year, she said.

The settlement dismisses Harrison from the lawsuit and isn’t an admission of any wrongdoing, Winter said.

Wilson said she and Guerrero are no longer a couple but remain friends. She went back to Los Angeles while Guerrero decided to stay in Honolulu.

“I’m glad it’s over, but at the same time we wanted the officer to suffer some sort of repercussion,” Wilson said.

Guerrero ended up working and living in Honolulu partly because a condition of their release from jail required them to stay on the island. By the time the charges were dismissed, Guerrero found she liked living here.

“I’m happy with it,” Guerrero said of the settlement. “I’m just glad it’s over with.”

After paying their attorneys, Wilson and Guerrero plan to split what’s left from the settlement amount.

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    • HPD’s performance continues to sink. I am glad that my sisters made the state pay for its hatred and ignorance. HPD? Forget it. Useless. Too expensive to keep around. And while you are at it, fire the inept “chief” Kealoha.

    • When this story first broke out,the opinions here, were totally opposite!Supporting The Officer and The Foodland Pupukea store. Now?What do we have?The LGBT and The Political Correctness crowd flexing their feminine muscles! With HPD Caving in!

      Like I originally said about this story(along w/my fellow Trolls),regarding these 2 girls?
      NEXT TIME …GET A ROOM! Our children do not need to see this kind of stuff!Show some discretion.

    • My opinion is this was obscene and a way to create an opportunity to file a frivolous lawsuit. I would hope that the County would appeal the verdict.

        • I believe this is what might be called a “sweeping generalization”.

          So only those who have made a commitment to being Lesbians are your “sisters”. What about the rest of female humanity?

        • Society used to say the same thing about anyone kissing in public, then they said it about unmarried people, then they said it about interracial couples, now their saying it about gay couples.

          Personally, I find a brief kiss in public to be fine – regardless of race, gender etc… But “making out”, groping, and prolonged kissing in public makes others uncomfortable and is rude and selfish, just as having a loud argument in public, with name calling, grabbing and shoving, is rude and low class.

          Police can be bigots and bullies, but they are also expected to keep the peace and must try to draw the line between what is rude and what is unlawful. This can be difficult in practice, and it seems the officer failed to do so. What is not clear from the story is whether or not this was due to bigotry.

          Those who focus on the racial or gender aspects of such behavior, intolerant of “them” when it’s OK for “us” are bigots and hypocrites plain and simple.

          As an American, I don’t think our government or its representatives should condone bigotry. As a follower of Jesus’ of Nazareth, I try to keep in mind “judge not and thou shall not be judged” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus preaches tolerance, forgiveness, self-assessment and love of “them”, and is fiercely opposed to judgemental bigots and hypocrites.

        • @ Dannoboy When this story originally broke, these women were not merely engaged in a “brief kiss;” rather they created a public disturbance by making out in the aisle according to witnesses at the time – hence the action to stop them. These women are manipulators. If you’re going to use Jesus as a support for your argument at the very least can you manage to quote him correctly? While Jesus did condemn hypocrisy, neither did he condone sinning. He commanded the woman accused of adultery to go and sin no more. If one tolerates everything then there is no such thing as sin is there?

      • For over 200 years, the selective reading of scripture by Southern evangelicals (ignoring gospel teachings and focused on the old testement jewish writings) allowed for the justification of white supremacy and the barbaric enslavement of Africans in the service of greed and power. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Southern Baptists acknowledged this and apologized.

        Rather than focusing on the selective reading of old testament Leviticus, the personal opinions of the sinner Paul and of contemporary evangelicals regarding gay people, Maafala might want to get a hold of a red letter bible and go through the Gospels again and open himself to the words, the teachings, the wisdom and the spirit of Jesus.

  • HPD should pay for this along with the idiot cop who made the arrest. The City Council is so happy to pay up for HPD’s screw ups and nobody is held accountable.

    • Exactly! What the heck is an on-duty police officer doing loitering in a grocery store, anyway?! Purchase your coffee and doughnuts and get back on patrol. The North Shore of O‘ahu is not exactly a low-crime area.

    • Seems like there’s no punishment for that officer and he probably got a promotion instead. HPD has a reputation of being homophobic with their Union Leader Maafala a vocal critic of the gay community. Instead of showing Aloha, they preach hate instead, which is pretty much the opposite of their motto to serve and protect.

      • They already did in prior articles. His name is Bobby Harrison, Jr. You can find his picture online. He looks exactly like what you’d expect a stereotypical homophobic redneck would look like.

        • And where is the personal accountability when a Police officer or any public employee actions result in taxpayer money being paid out? Did Officer Harrison even get suspended or terminated for violating their civil rights? Of course not, perhaps the federal prosecutor should investigate this incident. Keith Kaneshiro is incompetent and in bed with our corrupt police chief. He’s too busy chasing victimless crimes suspects like game room operators and prostitutes to worry about HPD violating the civil rights of a gay couple.
          Keep voting for the same corrupt long serving (D)politicians Hawaii, you’re getting exactly what you deserve.

        • Good question, hawaiikone… Only, I don’t see your face on display either. Thanks for that.

        • eye, difference being I don’t call others nasty names or insult their intelligence, unlike quite a few posters here. Doing so behind a keyboard is easy, not so easy face to face.

        • He cost the taxpayer 80K for his ineptitude. Expensive dude to keep around. Trouble is, too many HPD officers are grossly overpaid, poorly trained and inept. Their “Chief” should have been fired long ago.

  • If you read the original article in Stadadvertiser when this first happened witnesses said they were fondling each other and I believe the officer asked them twice to politely take it outside one of the women became belligerent and got physical with the officer.

    • If the women were the first to get physical with the officer, then the prosecutors would not have dropped the criminal charges against them. Obviously, the investigation showed that the officer was at fault, which was why the false charges were dismissed and the city settled this lawsuit.

      • The officer made a judgement call. There were others in the market which included children. I realize they did nothing criminal but discretion was not used by them.

        • Officer Harrison, come back, we miss you. Oh, Oh, Is the Mandan Princess coming out? OMG! I thought she was dating Ken Conklin? Just about every day I see Les couples showing affection in the market. They always look over to see if they got your attention. Hetero couples never do this as far as I can tell, Maybe someone in the forum can explain if this is a thing or what?

        • This arrogant cop arrested them because they didn’t listen and obey him as he expected them to do, never mind the fact that they weren’t breaking ANY law. He clearly abused the authority granted to him as a police officer and should be stripped of his badge. That won’t happen though because the public worker unions run this state.

        • This lack of “discretion”, whatever that means in your mind, is not something that is illegal. There was no crime and no arrest should have been made.

        • Klastri, if someone was using profanity and the officer did nothing, that officer would probably receive complaints from doing nothing. This officer took the initiative to have those two to “take it outside”. I never said lack of discretion was illegal. And if you do not know lack of discretion, then no sense talking to you.

        • kiragirl – You can make up a false reality about someone using profanity if you want. That didn’t happen, of course. The officer had no legal authority to tell those women to do anything. None. It was not a police matter. The officer created the situation in the entirety. If you don’t understand the law and pretend you do, then no sense in talking to you.

        • Klastri, then let’s agree to not to talk to each other. I would be very happy if I do not hear from you again. Bye.

        • saywhatyouthink,

          As was mentioned earlier, the officer has been retired for some time. It’s true the local media didn’t scream and shout about the event, but then, why would they?

  • With all the crime that we have here on Oahu, this cop has to harass this couple in a supermarket because he didn’t like what he saw? Why don’t the police go after real criminals and not people like this and not motorists who go a few miles over the speed limit. I’m sure this arrest in Hawaii made front page news where they came from. Bad publicity is never good and police officers like this don’t belong on the force.

  • So is this just the city’s settlement because the off-duty officer acted under color of law? I hope they’re pursuing a suit against the officer himself, since he was the actual tortfeasor, and receive a settlement with at least one more zero on the end.

  • Not to be judgmental but I think the actions of this one group in public are outrageous! Why can’t they keep their actions respectful to society at large. Most heterosexual couples do not put on displays like this and if they do they are wrong also. Keep it to yourself I don’t for one care one way or another if they are Gay or not but their physical displays are offensive.

      • You’re stating then that cubby is “judgmental” due to having objected to excessive displays of affection in public. Naturally, that prompts curiosity as to what, if anything, would you personally consider as “excessive”? If indeed there are certain actions or activities that even you would deem as publicly inappropriate, then wouldn’t others not in agreement be justified in labeling you judgmental?

    • I’m not judging you. Question, is there any level of physical displays which are not offensive? Is holding hands offensive? I guess, I’m just trying to see where you believe the line should be drawn.

      • Would it be a crime for other shoppers to stand nearby and stare at them..? What about filming them in the act..? It’s a public place, after all.

        • No, it would not be a crime to stare at them in places where there is no expectation of privacy. The same generally goes for taking photographs or making a video recording. One needs to remember though, that a supermarket, though open to the public, is also private property, not a federal, state, or city and county facility. “House Rules” regarding the use of cameras within such places can forbid their use if that is what the owner or management desires. To take one example, Shirokiya at Ala Moana has or had a “No Photographs Allowed” policy inside the establishment. True, it was rarely enforced by line employees and was only selectively enforced by managers, but it does or did exist. As I’ve been told, “You don’t need to eat or shop here.”

    • I said “sounds” like not that they actually are. and there you go again klastri insulting posters, what the hell is wrong with you man, go see a psychologist.

      • den,

        Everyone posting here has implicitly agreed to the “Terms of Service” the precedes each and every discussion. But you may have noticed a lot of things written here that you wouldn’t want your mother to see. The many, many obvious inferences approving of homosexual prison rape is merely one example. Having participated in many forum discussions, the only times I’ve seen posters banned outright is when a blatant physical threat is made. In most moderated fora (which obviously doesn’t include the Star-Advertiser) violators are given written warnings posted directly on the discussion thread for all members to read. If a violator fails to heed repeated warnings and is finally banned, it’s no mystery to members why it happened.

  • cholo doesn’t quite understand what all the jibber jabber is about two decent, maybe even hot looking women kissing. if cholo was the cop, he’d pull up a chair to the front row and watch all the action up close. yeah yeah cholo the perv, deal with it. cheeeeeehuuuuuuu!

  • “After paying their attorneys, Wilson and Guerrero plan to split what’s left from the settlement amount.” If they’re lucky maybe they’ll have enough for a plate lunch and six-pack.

    • klastri did you read this?

      “By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.”

    • klastri, just out of curiosity, would you approve of an “anything goes” atmosphere to the S-A comments section? Would that include free and liberal use of the most forbidden word in the English language, the dreaded “C” word? You predictably blow off other readers in the S-A community by implying it’s solely an adult venue (which it isn’t by the way). Would you actually prefer to see many or most comments begin with an attempt to put down the previous poster?

  • Wrongful arrest is a serious thing, no matter what the reasoning (or lack thereof) of the arresting officer. In dictatorships, people are often arrested at the whim of the police, but here — thank goodness — it’s seen as an offense. I’m not surprised the state has to pay — if anything, we got off easy.

    • True, in this country dissidents, members of the media and assorted “undesirables” don’t get hauled off in the middle of the night never to return. But that doesn’t mean we in the U.S. don’t indirectly benefit from such excesses conducted by some of our allies. We may not beat the truth out of culprits, but that sometimes only means we permitted some other country to do it for us.

  • I spoke with a person who watched this scene unfold in the market. These two people were way out of line in what they were doing in the store regardless of their gender preferences. The policeman had the North Shore beat and was well liked by the community … a good guy. His intervention was not about two females it was about their behavior. It was way more than kissing!! It is unfortunate that the incident escalated. Too bad the store manager was not the one that asked them to behave.

  • One of the things you can learn from studying the Bible is that it is crystal clear on some things but also inconsistent or unclear on others. The Bible does not contain any outright statement against lesbianism and there is no account of a statement by Jesus on the topic either unlike the few references to male homosexuality. The references to male homosexuality arise primarily in the Old Testament in Leviticus because of the risk of disease and the fact that the birthdate would be lower. The strongest reference in the Bible is probably the relationship of Ruth and Naomi and the powerful vow before God made by Ruth to Naomi that has been incorporated in marriage vows up to modern times.

  • how about fining the cop who started it all. there was no crime being committed yet, he wanted to arrest the two. he was derelict and should pay the fine. no cop should be allowed to create laws because of their personal bias. this is a blatant case of the cop exceeding his authority.

    • That the incident spiraled out of the officer’s control is not in dispute. The question really boils down to whether or not any such thing as “Community Standards” still exist and whether violators can be compelled to leave a commercial establishment. Take the U.S. military and its associated businesses and properties as an example. Shoppers entering a place as mundane as the PX or commissary can be made to leave if they choose to dress a certain way (and sometimes photo displays are placed at the front entrance depicting exactly what clothing options are prohibited). Because there’s no such thing as a federal law prohibiting the wearing of Daisy Dukes or low-slung baggy pants, is the U.S. military then in violation of the right to free speech?

  • I hope that the officer had to pay something for his stupid behavior . The tax payer should not have to be totally responsible for the monetary settlement.The settlement amount should be paid by the police officer and funds should be taken out of the HPD budget to pay for this.

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