A video of a white business owner spraying a woman of color with a hose as she sits on the sidewalk has gone viral, sparking outrage among many on social media.
The man has not faced criminal charges despite his actions being reported to local authorities.
On Monday, Jan. 9, the 18-second clip of the man spraying a dark-skinned woman outside the Barbarossa Lounge in San Francisco started to make its rounds on the internet. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the man is Collier Gwin, the owner of the Foster Gwin Art Gallery on Montgomery Street.
He said the incident happened early on the morning of Jan. 9, and he sprayed the woman because she knocked over the garbage cans outside his business and refused to leave the property.
“I said you have to move; I cannot clean the street; move down,” said Gwin. “She starts screaming belligerent things, spitting, yelling at me… At that point, she was so out of control… I spray her with the hose and say move, move. I will help you.”
Gwin is seen casually leaning against a cast iron railing with his legs crossed, hosing down the woman, who appears to be homeless or challenged.
As she tries to block the water with her hands and struggles to get her words out, the man stops spraying for a short while to tell her to “move.” She repeatedly protests getting wet by his hose, and he responds only with the question, “are you going to move.”
The lounge released a statement distancing itself from the incident.
A post on social media says, “Barbarossa Lounge has been made aware of a video that has began (sic) to circulate on social media, which was filmed outside our small business.”
“Barbarossa is in no way associated with the inhumane actions portrayed in the video. Upon investigation it appears the actions are those of a neighboring business owner,” the statement continued. “We are extremely disappointed in this individual’s behavior and in no way support such actions. We have been informed that formal and media investigation is underway.”
Adding the lounge “strives to support our local community and treat all passersby and patrons with equal respect and dignity.”
In an interview about the incident, Gwin called the woman “psychotic” and said he had been her “champion,” allowing her to sometimes sleep in the entryway of his business, calling social services for her, and even reaching out to the police to get her support.
“You know, spraying her’s not the solution, but spraying her was something that woke her up and that calmed her down. So am I sorry? I’m only sorry that… my way of helping her countlessly has gotten nothing done,” the gallery owner said about his actions.
Gwin also told reporters he had called the police “25 times” within two weeks to help the homeless woman and got fed up that day.
“Of course, I didn’t want to spray her with the hose, and my mind would not have done that if this hadn’t been constantly exacerbated over and over and over,” he said. “But I find it hard to apologize when we’ve had no help on the situation by taking her to some sort of help for psychiatric evaluation.”
The video was recorded by Edson Garcia, the head chef at Brioche S.F., a bakery near the gallery, around 6 a.m.
Garcia said he was out making a delivery when he saw Gwin spraying the woman with the hose.
He said, “I was shocked. It’s crazy how people can act.” Like many on the street, including Gwin, Garcia knew who the lady was.
According to TMZ, the San Francisco Police Department was notified of the incident and called to the location. However, once they arrived, the woman did not seek to have the man charged with any criminal action — nor did he submit a complaint regarding the woman.
A police report on the incident says officers “met with a male suspect and a female victim who were involved in a dispute.”
Had the woman decided to press charges, Gwin could have been charged with battery under California law.
State law defines battery as a “willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” This also would include spitting or throwing water at someone. The battery charge could likely be paired with assault, defined as an “unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Both crimes are considered misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In Louisiana, a store clerk is facing charges for throwing a bucket of cold water on a homeless person amid freezing temperatures plummeting below 25 degrees outside of a Triple S Food Mart. Like the Gwin video, this incident also caught national attention after being uploaded on social media. The aggressor Kasey Young, 44, was charged with simple battery and was fired from her job.
The SFPD said its Street Crisis Response Team went out and checked on the woman to see if she could be assisted, but the outcome of the effort has not been made public.
During his interview about the incident, Gwin tried to justify his actions by taking the reporters to where the woman was and calling her “Cora,” and saying to her while she was wrapped in blankets on the ground, “Talk to me, please.”
Instead, she blasted him and said she would call her lawyers on him.
Gwin still believes he was in the right.
The business owner then took the reporters to speak with Michael Imperiale, co-owner of the nearby Tricolore Caffee & Pizzeria. Imperiale watched the footage and acknowledged knowing the woman in the video and that sometimes she can be a nuisance. However, he was most offended by his colleague’s actions, saying, “Collier! That’s not good!”