Criminal Justice

Mayor of Portland, Oregon, pepper-sprays lawyer in parking lot

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Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a lawyer who confronted him in a restaurant parking lot Sunday about COVID-19 risks, according to police.

The lawyer is Cary Cadonau, a partner with the law firm Brownstein Rask, report Oregon Public Broadcasting, Courthouse News Service, the Willamette Week and the Associated Press.

Wheeler was not familiar with Cadonau. He told police that he was confronted in the parking lot by a middle-aged white man who appeared to be capturing the incident on a cellphone video. The man wasn’t wearing a mask, yet he accused Wheeler of sitting in the restaurant without wearing a mask, according to Wheeler’s statement to police.

Wheeler said he told the man that he was sitting in a tented area of a restaurant, and COVID-19 regulations allow people to remove their masks to eat and drink. Wheeler had dined with Sam Adams, a former Portland, Oregon, mayor, who was also in the parking lot.

Wheeler said the man followed him to his car and got within a foot or two of him.

“I became imminently concerned for my personal safety, as I had recently been physically accosted in a similar situation,” Wheeler’s statement said.

“In addition, I was concerned about contracting COVID given that he was right in my face [and] that he was not wearing a face mask. I believe that I had taken my face mask off as I attempted to enter the car, but I don’t specifically remember. I clearly informed him that he needed to back off. 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. He seemed surprised and backed off. He made a comment like, ‘I can’t believe you just pepper-sprayed me.’ “

Wheeler said he threw a water bottle to the man, so he could wash his eyes out.

Police identified the man as Cadonau in a later police report. According to his law firm bio, Cadonau’s practice includes real estate, business litigation, family law, personal injury and criminal defense.

Some publications obtained Adams’ audio recording of the incident. The Willamette Week posted it in this story.

“You weren’t 6 feet apart from Mr. Adams over there,” Cadonau said to Wheeler.

“Yeah, we were,” Adams responded.

Cadonau said he has a photo showing that the two men were closer than 6 feet apart.

Wheeler told Cadonau that he is only 1 foot away from him, rather than 6 feet away.

Cadonau then said, “Oh, my God,” and, “You just pepper-sprayed me, for no reason, at all.”

“Actually, I was here, and you were like a foot from him,” Adams told Cadonau. “He asked you to back away, and you didn’t.”

Police said they learned that Cadonau had requested video surveillance and Wheeler’s receipt from the restaurant. The lawyer said he wanted the receipt because it would show how much alcohol Wheeler consumed that evening.

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