LOS ANGELES (CNN) — What started as a kiss inside a grocery store on an island vacation landed Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero in jail and stuck far away from home without money for months, they say.
It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday in the place that feels closest to paradise — Hawaii. The women in their 20s had been dating for two years and wanted a break from their daily grind in Los Angeles.
Then came the kiss at a Foodland store in Honolulu.
“We were holding hands and I was kissing her cheek,” Guerrero said. “We were just happy to be out here,” Wilson chimed in. “We were just being goofy,” Guerrero added.
They were interrupted by yells and saw two people — one a man in uniform.
“They called after us and told us basically you can’t do that. Take that somewhere else,” Wilson said. She said she thought it was just a couple of rude random guys. So the women went about buying their snacks.
Calling police on police
But when they made their way to the checkout counter, the man in uniform, off-duty police officer Bobby Harrison, followed them.
“He told us that he was going to find the manager he was going to sign a trespass form and that we were no longer going to be allowed in any Foodland establishments because of the conduct of our behavior. So, being confused as to what exactly we did and how that was just I called the police myself,” Wilson said.
CNN has reached out for comments from Officer Harrison.
After Wilson called 9-1-1 saying an officer was harassing her, the situation escalated, she said. Wilson claimed she tried to walk outside to find the store’s address to pass on to police, but Officer Harrison grabbed her and wouldn’t let go.
Then her girlfriend tried to intervene, getting between the two.
While she talked to 9-1-1, Wilson said she tried to walk outside, and Officer Harrison grabbed her and then pushed her girlfriend.
“He would not let go of her,” Guerrero said.
Exchange of punches
Then Guerrero fell and hit her head on the counter, Wilson said. A tussle ensued. Guerrero said the officer punched her in the face when she tried to push him off her girlfriend.
They also dealt blows themselves, kicking and pushing Harrison, and hitting him in the face, Wilson and Guerrero said. His glasses broke. It ended with the two women in zip tie handcuffs and an employee holding them down.
When police they had called showed up, officers arrested Wilson and Guerrero on charges of assaulting an officer, the women said.
They spent two days in jail and spent all their vacation money to bond out, they said. They were told they would have to check in every couple of weeks with the bail bondsman until their initial court date.
Stuck, no money
But with no more money they were forced to stay in Hawaii. Wilson and Guerrero found a friend of a family member who took them in for a while, then a stranger they met who did the same, but eventually they ended up on the streets until they found temporary jobs.
They are now staying with co-workers they hardly know, they said.
“It has been really really tough, but so many good people have helped us,” Wilson said.
About five months after being arrested suddenly, they were free to go.
The women filed a civil suit against the city and Officer Harrison. The court documents said that the court dropped the criminal case against them “with prejudice,” which means police cannot re-file on the same incident.
Officer ‘on full duty’
The police department has responded to the civil lawsuit in a statement.
“The Honolulu police department opened an internal investigation based on the allegations in the lawsuit. The officer has 26 years of service. The officer is currently on full duty,” it said.
The women say there may have been surveillance video of the incident, but that they were told the tapes went missing. CNN contacted the store for comment, but is has not responded.
Wilson and Guerrero finally have enough funds to buy their plane tickets out of Hawaii. They never thought they’d be so happy to be able to leave what they once considered paradise.