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Former Portland police chief indicted on misdemeanor charge for shooting friend

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Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Larry O'Dea. (KPTV file image) Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Larry O'Dea. (KPTV file image)

Former Portland Police Bureau Chief Larry O'Dea has been indicted on one count of negligently wounding another in Harney County for shooting a friend in the back, according to court documents.

The indictment on the Class B misdemeanor charge was filed Tuesday.

It states O'Dea, "did unlawfully and by failing to use ordinary care under the circumstances wound Robert Dempsey with a bullet from a firearm."

According to a 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.

The report states O'Dea told a deputy that Dempsey appeared to have shot himself while trying to holster a pistol.

The deputy noted the smell of alcohol from O'Dea's breath and described his eyes as glassy, watery and bloodshot.

Nobody in the group could immediately confirm how Dempsey was shot, according to the sheriff's office report.

The report states investigators were finally able to connect with Dempsey on May 14. Dempsey told deputies O'Dea went to get something to drink and accidentally shot him when he returned and picked up his gun.

Dempsey noted O'Dea had been having trouble with his gun throughout the day, including the gun jamming, misfiring and not feeding.

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

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.

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 decided to retire in June. A statement from his attorney announcing the retirement said O'Dea did not have alcohol on his breath and he was not intoxicated or impaired at the time of the shooting, calling those allegations, "gross misstatements of facts contained in early reports."

The Independent Police Review Board, Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Justice all investigated the shooting. The Portland Police Bureau confirmed Tuesday an internal investigation is ongoing. 

According to court documents, 12 witnesses provided testimony to the grand jury leading to O'Dea's indictment in Harney County.

O'Dea was sworn in as chief in January 2015 and had been with the Portland Police Bureau for nearly 30 years.

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