HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii state lawmaker is recovering from injuries after being assaulted at a homeless camp in Honolulu.
The Democrat, Rep. Tom Brower, was taken to a hospital after the incident in Kakaako late Monday afternoon, he said. He was later released.
Brower, who represents Waikiki and Ala Moana, was walking in Kakaako after he received an email expressing concerns about public safety and health in the area, he said at a news conference Tuesday.
“During my walk, I took two pictures of two different streets and put my camera away,” Brower said. “Within a few seconds, a guy on a skateboard deliberately ran into me, and he punched me several times in the chest.”
Brower said he was backing away, but the assailant continued to pursue him.
“At this point, I took my camera to videotape and document what was happening, a few seconds of video at most,” Brower said. “Soon after, I was knocked down and punched by someone else, a second person who I didn’t see. Throughout the ordeal, I never acted aggressively. I never tried to hit anyone back.”
Brower had a gash near his right eye and said he had bruised ribs. His hand was bandaged where he had broken his fall.
Brower said he regularly walks in the area, which used to be part of his district. He said when he took photos of the conditions, he shot images of tents and debris on the road, but not people.
“I specifically try to stand a distance away,” Brower said.
The case has been turned over to the attorney general’s office for investigation, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.
Brower said he hasn’t yet thought about whether he would press charges.
“Currently I really haven’t made that decision … but what I can say in fairness is that I don’t want anything bad to happen to them, and I don’t want them to feel bad,” Brower said.
Rose Puu said her 14-year-old son was among the teens involved in the altercation. She said the youths didn’t know who he was and were upset that he was filming their tents. By the time Puu got there, she said, the man was standing there with his face bloodied. She said her son and the others feel exploited when they’re photographed or filmed.
“Sometimes the thing go straight to Facebook,” she said. “And they don’t like it.”
Brower said he wasn’t planning to share the photos or videos on social media.
Puu said her son didn’t hit the man, but asked the man why he was shooting video. The man said he didn’t give a reason, he said.
“They don’t trust. The kids over here, they don’t trust,” she said from inside a tidy makeshift tent, fashioned out of a blue tarp attached to a chain-link fence along a sidewalk. “One thing about over here, it’s like a family thing.”
Puu and her four sons have lived there for about four years, she said.
Brower, 50, 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.
Brower later said he would no longer use a sledgehammer, but added his main purpose was to raise awareness of homeless issues. He said his actions were not an attack on the homeless.
“I’m trying to attack the issue of cleanliness, but some people interpreted it as an attack on the homeless,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report from Honolulu.
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