HONOLULU -- A Hawaii state representative said Thursday he will press charges against two homeless teens he says attacked him last month, sending him to the emergency room with a head injury and bruised ribs.
Rep. Tom Brower (D), who made national headlines in 2013 after smashing homeless people's shopping carts with a sledgehammer, held a press conference at the scene of the June 29 attack to announce his decision.
“We have seen an escalation in the number of assaults in the area," Brower told reporters, "and those who commit these acts need to be held accountable for their actions."
The attack reportedly happened as Brower photographed a homeless encampment.
Isaiah Totoa, 17, told Honolulu Civil Beat that he and a 14-year-old friend were angry that Brower was filming them and refused to stop.
“We asked him nicely to please stop taking pictures. He told us, ‘Just back off,’” Totoa told Civil Beat.
Brower maintained that he took pictures of the street, and that there were no people in his photos, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Brower said Thursday he isn't angry at those who beat him, but "this is not just about me. This is about the health and safety of the public.”
His decision to press charges comes after his self-proclaimed "tough guy" approach to Honolulu's homelessness problem. Brower publicly toured Honolulu streets with a sledgehammer in 2013, destroying shopping carts that homeless people use to store belongings. He said he roused sleeping homeless people during the day.
"If someone is sleeping at night on the bus stop, I don't do anything," he told the Star-Advertiser in 2013. "But if they are sleeping during the day, I'll walk up and say, 'Get your ass moving.'"
Homelessness has been an intractable problem in Hawaii. In the past year, the number of chronically homeless individuals has risen 24 percent. Both the state and the city of Honolulu have adopted a number of measures to address the issue, including a controversial "sit-lie" ban and periodic homeless sweeps.
Last month, Totoa told Hawaii News Now that the altercation with Brower stemmed from the desperation of living on the street.
"How would you feel if I walked in your house and just started recording you, right? We live here, this our house, respect it," the teen said. "We don't choose to live like this. If I had a choice to go to a house right now and live in that house ... trust and believe, I would be in my house. I wouldn't be living underneath one tent."
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