Tuesday morning the Maui Police Department arrested Thomas Russo, MauiTime’s publisher and owner, after Russo began filming MPD officers on Haleakala Highway during a massive series of traffic stops involving five or six police cars. Maui PD charged Russo with interfering with a government operation, harassment and resisting arrest.
“I stopped to find out why it was so important to back up traffic for miles,” Russo said after being released. “Social media was blowing up my phone, asking what was going on there. I wanted a report from the scene. I was arrested for filming and all other charges from the MPD are ridiculous. The police chose to arrest me in a direct attempt to stop the documenting of their activities.”
Russo said he walked up to an officer on the side of Haleakala Highway and asked him what was going on. The officer told Russo that they were looking for “traffic violations.” Russo then repeatedly asked the officer what gave them the right to back up traffic on a busy morning clear to Hali’imaile.
Russo said a second officer then told him that he was “obstructing” a traffic stop, in contradiction to the first officer who merely told him to “stay on the side.” Russo says he repeatedly asked the officers why they’re conducting all these traffic stops on such a busy morning.
While swiftly walking backwards but still filming the officers, he said both officers began following him and continuously telling him to “stand back.” Still walking back away from the officers, Russo said he identified himself by name and told the officer that he was a member of the media and runs MauiTime. At that point, Russo said Officer Rusty Lawson then told him that he was under arrest. Still walking backwards, away from the officers, Russo said Lawson then arrested him.
Lt. Wayne Ibarra, the Maui Police spokesman, did not provide a statement from the department on the arrest by press time. We will include that statement in a future story on this matter.