San Francisco police arrest gallery owner who sprayed homeless woman with hose
A San Francisco gallery owner who was caught on video spraying a homeless woman with a hose has been arrested and charged, authorities said Wednesday.
Collier Gwin, 71, faces a charge of misdemeanor battery after being accused of intentionally and unlawfully spraying water on a woman who was sitting on a sidewalk outside his gallery, according to the San Francisco district attorney’s office, which said it issued an arrest warrant for Gwin after reviewing the evidence from a police investigation.
Gwin was arrested at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and was booked at a county jail on the arrest warrant. The case remains an open investigation, police said in a statement.
Video from the Jan. 9 incident shows Gwin leaning against a fence, one leg crossed over the other, spraying a homeless woman with a hose while she sits outside his business, the Foster Gwin Gallery in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco.
The woman tries to block the water with her hands as she speaks, but her words are not decipherable.
Gwin stops spraying to point down the street and says, “Hey, just move. Move. Move. Move. OK, are you going to move? Are you going to move?”
The incident was captured on video and posted to Twitter and TikTok, garnering millions of views and prompting public outcry and a police investigation.
The woman who was sprayed did not seek to file charges against Gwin, according to the district attorney’s office, but prosecutors said Wednesday that they had enough evidence to proceed.
The woman, known to homeless service providers and officials as “Q,” was hospitalized last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, but it was unclear what she was being treated for.
After the video went viral, the window at Gwin’s gallery was shattered, according to the district attorney’s office.
“The alleged battery of an unhoused member of our community is completely unacceptable. Mr. Gwin will face appropriate consequences for his actions,” Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins said in a statement. “Likewise, the vandalism at Foster Gwin Gallery is also unacceptable and must stop — two wrongs do not make a right.”
Gwin could not be reached for comment Wednesday. It’s unclear whether the gallery space remains open.
On Monday, ABC7 in San Francisco reported that Gwin apologized for spraying the woman days after he had said he found it “hard to apologize.”
“I know it’s very hard to watch. I can only ask others to maybe better understand my breaking point,” Gwin told the news outlet. “I have the video to constantly remind me that this is a large cross to bear.”
While other expensive cities have excelled at using a new federal program to get vulnerable families off the streets, San Francisco hasn’t kept up.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Gwin admitted that he sprayed the woman with water, alleging that she had turned over garbage cans in front of his gallery.
“I said, ‘You have to move; I cannot clean the street; move down,’” Gwin told the Chronicle.
Gwin alleged that the woman became “belligerent” and began spitting.
“At that point she was so out of control … I spray her with the hose and say, ‘Move, move, I will help you,’” he said.
Gwin claimed that he had let the woman sleep in his gallery’s entryway multiple times and had contacted police and social services to try to get the woman help, calling himself a “champion,” the Chronicle reported.
“So am I sorry? I’m only sorry that … my way of helping her countlessly has gotten nothing done,” Gwin told the Chronicle.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes North Beach, called the incident an “unconscionable assault.”
“My office is well acquainted w/ the victim + have been trying for many months to get her support” from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Peskin wrote last week on Twitter.
“It’s not North Beach, it’s not who we are as a community + we won’t tolerate ‘vigilante’ attacks,” he wrote.
If convicted, Gwin could face up to six months in county jail and a $2,000 fine, prosecutors said.
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