Portland Mayor Pepper-Sprays Lawyer Who Got Too Close

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed an attorney who accused the mayor of violating Covid-19 restrictions while dining with another former mayor.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler studies federal police as they shoot tear gas at protesters Wednesday night, July 22. (Courthouse News photo / Karina Brown)

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler calmly pepper-sprayed a law partner at a prominent firm Sunday night, after the attorney approached Wheeler and former Mayor Sam Adams in a restaurant parking lot, according to a police report.

Wheeler told police that a man followed him out of the Hillsdale McMenamins Brewery and stood within one foot of him without wearing a mask. Wheeler pepper-sprayed the man and then threw him a bottle of water “to wash out his eyes,” according to Wheeler’s statement to police.

Wheeler and Adams both told police they didn’t recognize the man.

He turned out to be local attorney Cary Cadonau, a partner with Brownstein Rask, according to new details released by police Tuesday.


Audio of the incident between Portland, Ore. Mayor Ted Wheeler and Brownstein Rask attorney Cary Cadonau.

Adams, rumored to be in talks to take a position as part of Wheeler’s staff, had been dining with Wheeler and recorded audio of the incident. In it, Cadonau scolds Wheeler, claiming he was breaking Covid-19 rules by eating at a restaurant without a mask.

“You weren’t six feet apart from Mr. Adams over there,” Cadonau says.

“Yeah, we were,” Adams interjects.

Cadonau tells Wheeler and Adams that he took photos of them closer than that.

But Wheeler claims Covid fears were what prompted him to pepper-spray Cadonau.

“You are one foot away from me, not six feet away,” Wheeler says, just before Cadonau exclaims, “Oh my God!”

Adams then tells Wheeler it’s time to go.

“Alright, Mr. Mayor,” Adams says. “Better get on the road.”

“You just pepper-sprayed me for no reason,” Cadonau says.

Adams jumps to Wheeler’s defense.

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

“Wow,” Cadonau says.

Cadonau told Portland Police officer Matt Miller that he was “hesitant” to discuss details of the incident but said Wheeler should be held “accountable,” according to a police report released Tuesday.

He claims to have video recorded the entire exchange and confirmed to police he has requested video-surveillance footage from the restaurant, as well as Wheeler’s receipts from the evening meal, “because it would show how much alcohol the mayor consumed that evening,” according to the police report.

An heir to Alpenrose Dairy, Cadonau and two siblings are currently fighting an attempt by other family members to sell the dairy to developers. It is unclear whether that pending matter, with a corresponding effort to “Save Alpenrose,” played a role in Sunday’s drama.

Sunday’s incident first came to light when a reporter with The Portland Mercury asked Wheeler at a press conference whether the tip she’d gotten was based in fact.

Wheeler experienced being tear-gassed firsthand by federal officers in July, when he attended a protest in the movement for Black lives. Wheeler was at the crux of controversy at the time, wedged between President Donald Trump — who repeatedly held Wheeler up as the lax liberal leader of an “anarchist jurisdiction — and Portland protesters who heaped scalding criticism on Wheeler for letting police tear-gas, beat and shoot protesters night after night during the protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Wheeler is Portland’s police commissioner in addition to being mayor.

That night, between rounds of tear gas, Wheeler told Courthouse News how “fortunate” he felt when a protester had thrown a water bottle at his head.

“It was exactly what I needed,” Wheeler said.

From the looks of it, Wheeler extended that same courtesy to Cadonau on Sunday night.

In the audio recording of the incident, Cadonau seems wary of the gesture.

“I can’t see, but the mayor has just thrown something at me,” Cadonau says.

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