Report: Portland police chief was drinking when he shot friend, - KPTV - FOX 12

Report: Portland police chief was drinking when he shot friend, claimed it was self-inflicted

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Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea (KPTV file image) Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea (KPTV file image)
Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea (KPTV file image) Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea (KPTV file image)
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    As several investigations are underway after Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea admitted to accidentally shooting a friend while on a hunting trip in Harney County in April, a former officer says the way it has been handled represents a very clear double-standard that is hurting morale. 

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    As several investigations are underway after Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea admitted to accidentally shooting a friend while on a hunting trip in Harney County in April, a former officer says the way it has been handled represents a very clear double-standard that is hurting morale. 

    More >
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea was drinking and shooting at squirrels with a group of friends in Harney County last month when one of the men yelled out in pain, according to a law enforcement summary of the incident.

Robert Dempsey, 54, had been shot in the lower back. O'Dea told a deputy investigating the incident that it appeared his friend was trying to holster a pistol and accidentally shot himself.

The deputy noted the smell of alcohol coming from O'Dea's breath, according to a Harney County Sheriff's Office report released by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, as well as glassy, watery and bloodshot eyes.

The deputy's report states O'Dea was visibly nervous and shaking during the interview. He also drank a bottle of water prior to the interview and another one during it.

Dempsey told investigators weeks later that O'Dea had shot him.

O'Dea was put on administrative leave by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales this week as multiple agencies, including the Independent Police Review Board, Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Justice, investigate the April 21 shooting.

Deputy responds to shooting

According to the Harney County Sheriff's Office report, O'Dea and six others were sitting in a line of lawn chairs shooting at sage rats out in front of them the afternoon of April 21.

As Dempsey was being treated and flown to the hospital, the men were all interviewed. The investigating deputy noted the smell of alcohol coming from almost everyone's breath in the report.

Nobody was able to confirm how Dempsey was shot. According to the investigating deputy's report, O'Dea said he had placed his gun on the chair and walked a couple steps away when he heard Dempsey groan in pain.

O'Dea said he turned around and saw Dempsey holding his left side while sitting in his chair. O'Dea told the deputy that Dempsey had an empty shoulder holster and it appeared he accidentally shot himself.

The report states O'Dea said he took off the holster and then removed clothing from Dempsey to find the wound and provide first aid.

At the conclusion of the individual interviews, the deputy reported that he addressed the group.

"I said if anyone had information about the shooting, I needed to know about it and no one said anything," the report states.

The deputy also suggested the men not drive due to their suspected use of alcohol.

Shooting victim interviewed

The deputy contacted Dempsey the next day, but Dempsey's wife said he was heavily medicated and unable to talk. The deputy attempted to contact Dempsey again on May 8 and May 13, before finally interviewing him on May 14.

According to the deputy's report, Dempsey said O'Dea had been having trouble with his gun throughout the day of the shooting, including the firearm jamming, misfiring and not feeding.

Dempsey told the deputy that O'Dea went to get something to drink and accidentally shot him when he returned and picked up his gun.

Dempsey said he didn't see O'Dea shoot him because he was facing the other direction at the time.

The sheriff's office report states O'Dea called him after the incident and was, "very emotional and apologizing for shooting him." Dempsey said that is when he found out O'Dea shot him.

Police chief on leave

Dempsey told the Harney County deputy that O'Dea talked with "his bosses" about the shooting, but did not elaborate on who those bosses were, according to the report.

A Harney County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said O'Dea did not identify himself as the Portland Police Bureau chief or a law enforcement officer during the initial investigation. A Portland mayor's office spokesperson said the shooting was reported to city leaders April 25, four days after it happened.

Hales responded to a FOX 12 question this week about the case by saying, "It's an investigation, and that is why it needs to continue to be confidential until it is done."

The Portland Police Bureau first released information to the media about the incident on May 20, saying the shooting was the result of a "negligent discharge" from a .22 caliber rifle and O'Dea was "tremendously upset" about it.

O'Dea has been given a communication restriction order by the Independent Police Review Board which prevents him from discussing the case.

Assistant Chief Donna Henderson has been named acting chief while O'Dea is on leave.

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