Wheeler and former one-term Mayor Sam Adams were leaving the McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House around 8 p.m. when a man video recording him said he had been photographing the mayor while he was inside a tent area.
Wheeler said the man followed him to his car while continuing to record and refused to back away, according to a police report.
“He accused me of sitting in a restaurant without a mask,” the report said. “In fact, I was in the tented area of a restaurant sitting at a table, and I informed him the current Covid regulations allow people to take their mask off for the purpose of eating and drinking.
“He then accused me of other things to which I indicated he did not understand the rules and should probably have a better understanding if he was going to confront people about them,” Wheeler said in his statement.
He said the man was not wearing a mask and got within a “foot or two from my face” during the encounter. Wheeler said he became concerned for his personal safety and of contracting COVID-19.
“I clearly informed him that he needed to back off,” he said. “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.”
The man commented to the effect of: “I can’t believe you just pepper sprayed me,'” Wheeler said.
He said he threw a bottle of water toward the man so he could rinse his face. He then notified authorities and his chief of staff of what happened.
Wheeler, who was re-elected in November, has been targeted while out in public before.
A group of left-wing activists approached him and yelled obscenities at him earlier this month while he was dining out. Demonstrators have demanded his resignation over the city’s response to chaotic protests last year that saw routine violence and vandalism.
Wheeler was forced to move after the windows to his condominium were smashed and a fire was set in his building.