Hawaii lawmaker to press charges for attack in homeless camp

AP News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2015 2:00 AM
Hawaii lawmaker to press charges for attack in homeless camp

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii lawmaker said Thursday he will press charges against whoever assaulted him in a homeless encampment in Honolulu last month.

State Rep. Tom Brower, who returned to the scene of the June 29 attack to speak with the media, was confronted during the news conference by a mom who wanted to clear up reports that her son was involved with the attack.

"I don't want my son to go down or my nephew go down, for anything that they never do," Rose Puu said.

Brower, a Democrat who represents Waikiki and Ala Moana, said he was walking and shooting photos in the Kakaako encampment after he received an email expressing concerns about public safety and health in the area.

There have been various accounts of what happened, and some residents say the people who attacked Brower were upset that he was taking photos of their homes without their permission. But Brower maintains he did nothing to provoke the attack, and that he wasn't taking photos of people.

"I told the young men I was there to help," Brower said. "Today, my offer of help still stands. But for me to help you, you have to meet me halfway."

Brower encouraged the people who attacked him to come forward.

"If you show us the honesty, we'll show you the compassion," he said.

Puu, whose 14-year-old son has said he was part of the attack, said she was shocked to find out that Brower was returning to the area and that he had decided to press charges, potentially against her son.

Brower said he had not reached out to the families of the people who might be charged, because he didn't know if they'd want to talk to him and he was respecting their privacy.

Puu told Brower at the news conference that her son didn't hit him, and that when her son acknowledged having a role in the attack, he was covering for someone else.

"Rose, I don't want to have to do this," Brower said as Puu cried. "There's a lot of positive things that can come out of this. ... If you ask for help from me, I will give you help."

Brower has had encounters with homeless people before. In 2013, he used a sledgehammer to smash about 30 shopping carts used by homeless people to carry belongings in Waikiki. Brower has said he returned carts marked with a store's logo.

Some residents of the camp said Brower's attackers may have recognized him from that incident and worried that he was about to destroy their belongings.

"When they saw him taking pictures, they figured something like that was going to happen," said Vito Talo, who's lives on the sidewalk about a block away from where the attack occurred.

Brower said he planned to meet with police before deciding how many people he will pursue charges against.

"I'm trying to get my kids off the street," Puu said. "I just want to fix this whole thing so we can go on. I just want to know the truth."

The incident is under investigation, and the number of people, if any, who might be charged has not yet been decided, said Michelle Yu, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department. The state attorney general's office had been handling the case until it was turned over to police last week, and it's unclear whether there's enough evidence for prosecutors to press charges, she said.