PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a man who got in his face without a mask on, according to a police report obtained by KGW.
The incident first came to light during a press conference Monday when a reporter from the Portland Mercury asked the mayor to confirm a tip that he had, indeed, pepper-sprayed someone the night before.
Hours later, Portland police released the report tied to the altercation. It happened Sunday night outside a local McMenamins pub. Former Mayor Sam Adams, who had been eating with Wheeler, was listed as a witness. Wheeler’s office recently announced Adams would join his staff, though his exact position is unclear.
“I was leaving the Hillsdale McMenamins pub I was confronted by a middle-aged white male,” the report quoted Wheeler saying.
He added the man appeared to be filming him with a cell phone.
“He indicated that he had been photographing me while I was inside the restaurant’s tent. He accused me of sitting in a restaurant without a mask,” the report quoted Wheeler saying, before he clarified he was not eating inside the restaurant but in an open-air tent outside. “I indicated he did not I understand the rules and should probably have a better understanding if he was going to confront people about them.”
Both Wheeler and Adams told police the man followed the mayor to his car, still filming.
Wheeler noted the man wasn’t wearing a mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus “…and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me.”
The mayor is quoted in the report saying he feared for his personal safety, after recently being “physically accosted” in a similar situation, while out to dinner with a friend. Wheeler also filed a police report in that case.
“I clearly informed [the man] that he needed to back off,” Wheeler was quoted saying in the report about Sunday’s incident. “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. He seemed surprised, and backed off. He made a comment like ‘I can't believe you just pepper sprayed me.’”
Wheeler told police he threw a bottle of water toward the man so he could wash his eyes out, then got into his car and drove away. Once he had left the scene, Wheeler said he called city staff and then police.
No one has been arrested in connection with Sunday's confrontation that, or in the altercation earlier this month. Police say they’re investigating.
In an interview earlier this month, the mayor told KGW the increase in hostile encounters between public officials and their constituents is both concerning and not limited to Portland.
“That’s not OK," Wheeler said. "And the reason it's not OK is because ultimately I think it's an act of intimidation. And when I talk to my friends and they see these things, they're like, ‘This is why I would never run for public office.' I’ve heard from some of my friends in the media that people don't like to write letters to the editor, with their names on them anymore. That's really having a dampening impact on democracy.”