Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed an unmasked man who confronted him with a video camera as he and former Mayor Sam Adams left a local pub on Sunday night, according to a police report.
Wheeler was leaving McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House in Southwest Portland at around 8 p.m. on Sunday when he was confronted by an individual who accused him of dining without properly socially distancing or wearing a mask, according to the report from the Portland Police Bureau obtained by The Oregonian.
The man who confronted the pair wasn’t wearing a mask at the time of the incident, Wheeler said, noting that he was concerned for his safety as he was followed to his car.
“He had no face mask on and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me,” Wheeler said. “I became imminently concerned for my personal safety as I had recently been physically accosted in a similar situation. In addition, I was concerned about contracting COVID[-19] given that he was right in my face and he was not wearing a face mask.”
Earlier this month, Wheeler was punched in the face as he dined at a local cafe in the city.
Wheeler said the individual refused to leave when he told him to do so.
“I clearly informed him that he needed to back off. He did not do so I informed him that I was carrying pepper spray and that I would use it if he did not back off. He remained at close distance, I pulled out my pepper spray and I sprayed him in the eyes.”
However, an audio clip of the incident, recorded by Adams and obtained by Williamette Week, appears to show that the mayor didn’t warn the man before pepper-spraying him.
“You are one foot away from me,” Wheeler is heard saying on the clip that was given by Adams to police as evidence.
“Oh my god,” the man responds. “He just pepper-sprayed me for no reason at all.”
The mayor said he gave the man a bottle of water to rinse his face afterwards.
“I can’t see,” the man said, “but the mayor has just thrown something at me.”
Wheeler’s spokesman, Tim Becker, confirmed the reports in a statement to the news outlet.
“The mayor is cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same,” Becker said, without elaborating on the individual who had accosted Wheeler and Adams.
The pair told police they didn’t recognize the man.
Although it is legal to carry pepper spray in Oregon, its use can only justified in certain circumstances. Under state law, a person can be charged with “unlawful use” of pepper spray if the person “recklessly discharges” it against another person.