Police Chief Who Accidentally Shot Friend, Lied Resigns

Controversy still swirling around Oregon incident
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 27, 2016 5:37 PM CDT
Police Chief Who Accidentally Shot Friend, Lied Resigns
In this Oct. 7, 2014 file photo, Assistant Police Chief Larry O'Dea appears at a press conference at the Portland Police Bureau in the Justice Center, in Portland, Ore.   (Motoya Nakamura)

Portland's police chief, Larry O'Dea, resigned Monday amid criminal and internal investigations into whether he was forthright after accidentally shooting his friend during a camping trip on the other side of the state. O'Dea, 54, had been chief for little more than a year when he went on the April trip to sparsely populated Harney County in southeast Oregon. He shot his friend, Robert Dempsey, in the lower back with a .22 caliber rifle. The friend was taken to a Boise hospital, but not seriously hurt. O'Dea didn't identify himself as Portland's police chief when deputies spoke with him, and he said it appeared Dempsey shot himself in a mishap. A deputy who interviewed O'Dea at the scene wrote in a report that he smelled of alcohol. O'Dea admitted to Mayor Charlie Hales a few days after the incident that he had fired the shot. Harney County authorities didn't learn the truth until weeks later, when the victim finally spoke with an investigator.

Hales, who has repeatedly defended his decision not to make the incident public for weeks, announced O'Dea's resignation at a news conference that had to be shifted to his office because of hecklers. Hales said he's been disappointed by the "trial by media" and asked everyone to await the outcome of the twin investigations before passing judgment. "If the investigations determine that some of what has been printed about Chief O'Dea's conduct turns out to be not true, I would ask you to be as energetic in clearing his name as you have been in smearing him," Hales said. O'Dea has denied being intoxicated during the incident, and his attorney, Derek Ashton, reiterated that contention in a statement to the media on Sunday. "Larry O'Dea did not have alcohol on his breath nor was he impaired or intoxicated," Ashton said. "He did not purposely point his gun at any person and did not knowingly discharge a firearm in the direction of his lifelong friend. O'Dea had already been placed on paid administrative leave. (More Portland stories.)

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