Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed an individual who accosted him as he was leaving a restaurant Sunday evening, according to a police report.
The mayor was leaving McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House in Southwest Portland with former Mayor Sam Adams around 8 p.m. Sunday when a person confronted him and accused him of sitting in a restaurant without wearing a mask, according to the report. Wheeler and Adams had been dining in an outdoor tent at the restaurant just prior to the encounter. In Multnomah County, outdoor dining is allowed as long as restaurants operate below capacity.
The man, who the mayor described in the report as middle-aged and white, followed Wheeler to his car while videotaping the interaction. The mayor said he warned the man he was carrying pepper spray and told the man to “back off,” but the man refused. As the mayor attempted to get into his car, the mayor pepper-sprayed the stranger in the eyes.
“He had no face mask on and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me,” the mayor recounted to Sgt. Peter Simpson, according to the report. “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 given that he was right in my face and he was not wearing a face mask.”
While pepper spray is legal to carry in Oregon, it can only be used in certain circumstances. According to Oregon law, a person can be charged with “unlawful use” of pepper spray if the person “recklessly discharges” it against another person.
The incident marks at least the second time this month the mayor has been accosted while dining. On January 7, the mayor reported that a protester “swatted” him in the shoulder while he was out to dinner at a restaurant in the Nob Hill neighborhood.
The mayor reported the man seemed surprised at being sprayed and, after remarking on his disbelief, left. The mayor said he threw a water bottle at the man to rinse his eyes and he and Adams also departed.
Wheeler told Simpson he did not recognize the man.
According to the report, Adams said Wheeler explained to the man during the confrontation that people were allowed to remove their masks for eating and drinking.
The matter was reported to the police by Robert King, the mayor’s senior policy advisor on public safety. The report does not identify the man Wheeler pepper sprayed. PPB did not immediately responded to an inquiry over whether the person has since been identified.
Earlier Monday morning, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler held a press conference, where Portland Mercury reporter Alex Zielinski asked if there was any validity to tips the outlet had received that the mayor had pepper-sprayed someone Sunday night.
The mayor responded, saying “if there is, there will be a statement.”
The office released a statement later Monday about the incident, saying the mayor had filed a police report and “is cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same.”