Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, Ore., Used pepper spray on a man who berated him for not wearing a mask at a restaurant, then followed him to his car on Sunday night, according to a report by police.
“I immediately became concerned for my personal safety,” Mr. Wheeler told police of the confrontation.
The report says the man, who has not been identified, approached Mr Wheeler, a Democrat who was re-elected last year, at 8 p.m. as he left the McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House.
The man, whom Wheeler described as a “middle-aged white man,” appeared to be recording the mayor with his cell phone, according to the report.
Mr Wheeler, 58, said the man told him he had ‘photographed’ him as he ate inside a restaurant tent.
“He accused me of sitting in a restaurant without a mask,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I informed him that the current Covid regulations allow people to take off their masks to eat and drink.”
As Mr. Wheeler made his way to his car, the man followed him and continued recording, according to the report.
“He got closer,” Wheeler said. “He didn’t have a face mask and got a foot or two away from my face while he filmed me.
Mr. Wheeler said he was particularly concerned because he had recently been “docked in a similar situation”.
The mayor did not specify the situation he was describing. On January 6, a small group of protesters shouted and cursed Mr. Wheeler as he dined at another restaurant in town.
In the police report, Mr Wheeler expressed concern about “contracting Covid” with the man who confronted him on Sunday night, “given he was right in my face” and that he was not wearing a mask.
The mayor said he told the man to “back off” and warned him that he had pepper spray and was ready to use it.
The man stayed close, according to Mr Wheeler, who said he took out the pepper spray and sprayed it in his eyes.
“He made a comment like, ‘I can’t believe you just sprayed me with pepper,'” Wheeler told police. The man is gone.
Mr Wheeler said that before leaving he threw a bottle of water at the man so he could wash his eyes.
Police said they learned of the meeting at 9 p.m. on Sunday, when Robert King, the mayor’s senior public safety adviser, called the department to report the incident.
Mr King told police to call the mayor so he could provide them with a statement.
Sam Adams, a former mayor who had dinner with Mr Wheeler at the restaurant, told police the man who approached Mr Wheeler was in his mid to late forties, about 5ft 4in and wearing glasses. and dark clothes.
The man’s identity was not known on Monday when the report was filed. Portland Police did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The mayor’s office, which provided the police report, did not respond to requests for further comment.
Mr Wheeler has been criticized for his handling of the city’s homeless crisis and growing tensions in the city, where there have been months of protests over racial injustice, economic inequality, the application of federal law and corporate power. These protests met with a militarized federal response that only escalated the anger of the protesters.
Last July, Mr. Wheeler joined protesters who marched to the federal courthouse to protest the response, when they were hit by tear gas by federal agents.
“I’m not going to lie – it stings; it is difficult to breathe ” Mr. Wheeler said at the time. “And I can tell you with 100% honesty, I didn’t see anything that caused this response.”
Mr Wheeler, who is also a police commissioner and has been criticized for the use of tear gas by the Portland Police Department against protesters, also became a target during the July protest.
Some protesters threw objects in his direction and others called for his resignation chanting “Tear Gas Teddy”.
Mike Baker contributed reporting.