D.C. police arrest ANC commissioner charged with attacking homeless man

An Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who represents Dupont Circle has been charged by D.C. police with attacking a homeless man early Monday and throwing his belongings into the street, according to an arrest warrant filed in court.

Robert Leo Dwyer, 32, is accused of spraying a household cleaner at the man and yelling a racial slur. The incident occurred about 3 a.m. Monday in the 1600 block of 17th Street NW, a block from the commissioner’s home east of the circle.

The man told police that Dwyer approached him and said, “I’m sick of you [expletive],” and then sprayed him with a squirt bottle, according to charging documents.

A court affidavit says Dwyer told police that he sprayed the area because “it had a bad odor due to the homeless population.” He also admitted to scattering the man’s property but said he didn’t think he had made a racially charged comment, the affidavit says.

Dwyer, who represents ANC 2B07, east of the circle, was charged with misdemeanor assault. Dwyer was elected in January 2013. He is up for reelection in November and has two opponents.

Dwyer, in leg and wrist shackles, appeared in D.C. Superior Court wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Judge Karen Howze ordered him released until a hearing Aug. 25.

Outside the courtroom, Dwyer apologized for his actions. “I am very sorry,” he said. “I’m very saddened and regretful for my actions. It was very unfortunate that it happened.”

Will Stephens, the chairman of ANC 2B, said his group has been working with police and other agencies to help homeless people who sometimes congregate along 17th Street, near a supermarket. As a group, he said, “I think we have a good track record on that front.”

Dwyer, who works at a tavern, represents an area where residents have fought leaders of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Parish over church plans to expand and sell a private park to a developer who wants to build a seven-story apartment building. He chairs the ANC’s Zoning, Preservation and Development Committee.

The 50-year-old victim described the incident as unprovoked and said the attacker was “acting crazy.” Police said the man was treated by D.C. fire department medics for skin irritation.

He told police that he sometimes resides at Joseph’s House, a homeless shelter for people suffering from AIDS-related symptoms.

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Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.

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