Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a heckler in the face after the man accused him of dining without a mask at a local bar. The mayor has since filed a police report on the incident, of which there is an audio recording.
The confrontation unfolded as Wheeler attempted to leave Portland’s McMenamins pub on Sunday night, where he was joined by former mayor Sam Adams. When the mayor headed for his car, he said a man – who was himself without a mask – accosted him, claiming he had photographed Wheeler as he ate and insisting he violated the city’s coronavirus guidelines, which require face masks to be worn in public.
“I attempted to get closer to my car and get into it. He came closer. He had no face mask on and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me,” Wheeler told police, according to a report obtained by the Oregonian, adding that he then became “imminently concerned” for his safety.
I clearly informed him that he needed to back off. He did not do so… He remained at close distance, I pulled out my pepper spray and I sprayed him in the eyes.
From police report written by Sgt Peter Simpson, after receiving call from Robert King, Wheeler’s advisor on public safety. Incident occurred about 9 pm. Sun: pic.twitter.com/RjAt9Fp6AJ
— Maxine Bernstein (@maxoregonian) January 25, 2021
Wheeler said that he had warned the man he would spray him before doing so, though audio of the incident taken by Adams and obtained by a local news outlet did not capture this, as the exchange was briefly interrupted by a rustling noise in the recording. After spraying the man, the mayor said he “threw a full water bottle towards him so that he could wash out his eyes” and then immediately left the scene. Wheeler told police he did not recognize the man, who he described as a white male in his 40s.
The mayor’s critics soon caught wind of the altercation, some arguing the unmasked heckler was merely “calling [him] out” for “going out every night during a pandemic,” while another detractor suggested Wheeler deployed his pepper spray “unlawfully” and that his response “would not be tolerated if he were a bus driver, teacher, grocer, etc.”
Yo Ted Wheeler attacked someone and then threw a water bottle at him for calling out that going out every night during a pandemic is wrong. @tedwheeler, make it a zoom meeting like the rest of us.
— Gregory McKelvey (@GregoryMcKelvey) January 26, 2021
When Ted Wheeler is in public he is acting in the capacity of Portland Mayor. Ted Wheeler assaulted someone with mace while on the job. This constitutes a Class A misdemeanor, and would not be tolerated if he were a bus driver, teacher, grocer, etc. Ted emboldens PPB violence. pic.twitter.com/r3A5P7kt2q
— Abolition Now. (@PigWatchDigest) January 26, 2021
A spokesman for the mayor, Tim Becker, declined to answer questions about the pepper-spraying on Monday, saying only that Wheeler “is cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same.”
While it is unclear whether Wheeler’s accuser had any political affiliations, the mayor has been repeatedly accosted by local left-wing activists in recent months, who have gathered around his apartment multiple times to protest over the city’s response to a series of chaotic police-brutality demonstrations that kicked off last May. Earlier this month, the mayor vowed to “push back” against violent political groups, citing “radical Antifa” factions and “anarchists” in particular.
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