PORTLAND, OR- Last September, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler decided that his officers, despite the fact they had been dealing with nearly four months of nightly, violent riots in the city, decided he was going to take one of their tools away from them…the use of tear gas.
Apparently, those rules don’t apply to Wheeler, however.
According to the New York Post at the time, Wheeler, who had also been gassed during one of those protests said “we need something different” in order to put a stop to the nightly anarchy taking place in Portland.
Wheeler, however, doesn’t appear to follow his own rules.
Law Enforcement Today received a copy of a report from the Portland Police Bureau, dated January 24, 2021 in which the officers of the bureau responded to the Hillsdale Brew Pub in the city at around 9:00 p.m.
Officers responded to the restaurant on a complaint from Robert King, Senior Policy Advisor on Public Safety for Wheeler, who notified the bureau that Wheeler had been involved in an incident in which “WHEELER used pepper spray against an unknown person.”
.@tedwheeler was with Sam Adams at Hillsdale McMenamin’snPub Sunday night when a man started videotaping him. The man followed the mayor to his car , was ‘right in my face,’ without a mask and refused to back away when Wheeler sprayed him in eyes with pepper spray, report says
— Maxine Bernstein (@maxoregonian) January 25, 2021
Wait, so Wheeler BANNED his officers from using gas for defensive purposes against VIOLENT rioters in downtown Portland, yet HE used pepper spray against someone? The irony is just too rich.
According to Wheeler’s statement, he was leaving the Hillsdale McMenamin’s pub, and was confronted by a middle-aged male, who was taking video of Wheeler with a cell phone.
The male suggested he “had been photographing” Wheeler while he was inside the restaurant. The male accused Wheeler of not wearing a mask.
Wheeler said he was “in the tented area of a restaurant sitting at a table,” and he was complying with current COVID regulations where people can “take their mask off for the purpose of eating and drinking.”
The subject then accused Wheeler of other matters, to which Wheeler told him “he did not understand the rules and should probably have a better understanding if he was going to confront people about them.”
Wheeler said the man followed him to his car, still shooting video on his cell phone. While attempting to get into his car, Wheeler said the man came closer, without a face mask on and “within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me.”
Wheeler expressed concern because of a recent physical altercation he had been involved in, which Law Enforcement Today reported a couple of weeks back.
Wheeler also expressed concern about contracting COVID even though Wheeler admitted that he in fact was wearing a mask himself, or believed he was, but possibly removed it as he entered his car.
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Wheeler said he told the man to back off, which he refused to do.
He said he told the man he was carrying pepper spray and warned that he would use it against the man “if he didn’t back off.” Wheeler said the man remained “at a close distance” so he “pulled out my pepper spray and I sprayed him in the eyes.”
He said the man seemed “surprised” (who wouldn’t be?) and backed off. Wheeler said the man walked away from his car, at which time his companion told him he (Wheeler) should leave for his safety.
Tha mayor then said he threw a full water bottle toward the man so he “could wash out his eyes with water.” Wheeler then left the scene and notified his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff about what happened.
Wheeler said upon questioning by the responding officer that he did not recognize the man he pepper-sprayed from any previous encounters, to which Wheeler said he did not.
Wheeler’s companion, the aptly named Sam Adams, former mayor of Portland, was later contacted about the incident.
Adams confirmed Wheeler’s version of the events. Neither Wheeler nor Adams indicated that the man who was sprayed posed an imminent threat or had physically threatened him, only that he was “in close proximity.”
There were apparently no other identifiable witnesses to the incident.
The investigating officer noted that Adams had recorded the incident, but only got audio.
It was 1:31 long and seemed to be consistent with what Wheeler and Adams had said.
So, the question becomes was Wheeler legally justified in using pepper spray?
Under police use of force continuum, the use of chemical agents falls within the escalation of force, so it’s reasonable to assume that the same criteria police officers would need to use pepper spray as a use of force would also apply to civilians.
Under ORS 161.205, Use of physical force generally, it says that:
The use of physical force upon another person that would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal under any of the following circumstances:
(5) A person may use physical force upon another person in self-defense or in defending a third person, in defending property, in making an arrest or in preventing an escape, as hereafter prescribed in chapter 743, Oregon Laws 1971…
Under definitions, ORS 151.015, General Definitions:
(6) “Physical force” includes, but is not limited to, the use of an electrical stun gun, tear gas, or mace. [it would seem obvious that pepper spray would fall under either tear gas or mace]
With that in mind, was Wheeler in fact acting in “self-defense?” Other than being afraid of “contracting Covid,” and the guy being somewhat aggressive toward him, at least verbally, would Wheeler be justified in using pepper spray?
He said he was worried about contracting covid but he was eating at a restaurant. Seriously this story is just dripping with irony
— dead inside ☺️ (@GracefulBlabber) January 25, 2021
The question becomes, as Police Commissioner, and if one of the officers of the Portland Police Bureau was in the same situation and they used pepper spray against someone under the same circumstances, what would Wheeler do?
And why did Wheeler call his “staff” instead of reporting the incident directly to police himself?
Was the incident a couple weeks ago on Wheeler’s mind? Maybe. But it’s delicious irony that Wheeler, who banned his officers from using chemical agents against people who were ACTUALLY assaulting them and trying to inflict serious physical injury himself used a chemical agent against someone who was basically just yelling at him.
Just as with the COVID rules made up by politicians, there are two sets of rules…one for the ruling political class, the others for the rest of us.
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