Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a man who approached him to ask about COVID-19 rules in the U.S. city of Portland, Oregon, Monday.
Police reports said that the man confronted the politician outside a restaurant and got "uncomfortably close" to Wheeler.
Wheeler said in a statement to the police that he had warned the man not to get too close and to "back off." After the man continued to approach him, Wheeler sprayed the man in the eyes with a pepper spray device.
Wheeler told the police that he was leaving a pub at around 8 p.m. when the man approached him. He said that the man was filming the unsolicited interview with his smartphone. The man reportedly berated Wheeler for not wearing a mask in public and while he was sitting inside the restaurant. The man accused Wheeler of breaking his own city's COVID-19 rules.
According to a police report, Wheeler argued with the man and explained to him that he was in a tented area and that the city's COVID-19 rules allow people to take off their masks when they are eating or drinking.
Wheeler was with former Portland Mayor Sam Adams at the restaurant. Wheeler's predecessor was listed as a witness in the police's incident report.
The man, who was also not wearing a mask, had reportedly followed Wheeler to his car from the restaurant. Wheeler said that the man "got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me."
"I became imminently concerned for my personal safety, as I had recently been physically accosted in a similar situation," Wheeler said in his statement to the police.
The Portland Mayor's Office said that Wheeler is fully cooperating with authorities and their investigation into the matter.
Authorities have not yet confirmed if the man that was pepper-sprayed had filed a complaint against the city mayor. Wheeler said that he is encouraging people involved in the incident to come forward as witnesses.
"The mayor is cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same," Wheeler's director of communications, Jim Middaugh, told reporters.