A California man seen in a viral video spraying a homeless woman with a garden hose has been arrested on a charge of battery, authorities in San Francisco said.
Collier Gwin, 71, an art gallery owner, was captured in the video, taken on 9 January, leaning on a railing with his legs crossed as he directed a jet of water at the woman in an effort to get her to move on.
Gwin was taken into custody late on Wednesday, San Francisco police said in a statement. He faces a prison term of up to six months and a fine of $2,000 if convicted of misdemeanor battery.
The female victim did not want to press charges, the San Francisco district attorney said, but prosecutors believed the video provided enough evidence to proceed.
In the video, the owner of the Foster Gwin gallery in the North Beach neighborhood of the city repeatedly shouts “Move!” at the woman, who is sitting on the ground next to a trash container surrounded by blankets and other possessions.
She attempts to speak to him and raises her left arm to try to block or redirect the water as Gwin sprays it directly at her face.
Gwin was originally unrepentant, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he found it “hard to apologise” and portraying himself as a champion of the homeless for his claimed “tremendous efforts” to get authorities to help the woman.
In an interview with ABC7 this week, prior to his arrest, Gwin was more conciliatory.
“I know it’s very hard to watch. I can only ask others to maybe better understand my breaking point,” Gwin said. “This is a large cross to bear.”
The Chronicle has reported that the woman, known to homeless advocates as Q, was taken to hospital last week for unknown reasons.
Aaron Peskin, a Democratic San Francisco district supervisor, said his office was “well acquainted” with the woman and working to support her.
Since the incident, Gwin has closed the gallery and taken down its online presence. The video prompted a rash of poor social media reviews and a window was shattered in an act of vandalism.
Brooke Jenkins, the San Francisco district attorney, said in a tweet her office would not tolerate the abuse of homeless people.
“The alleged battery of an unhoused member of our community is completely unacceptable,” she wrote. “Mr Gwin will face appropriate consequences for his actions.
“Likewise, the vandalism at Foster Gwin gallery is also completely unacceptable and must stop – two wrongs do not make a right.”