Portland Police Chief Resigns Amid Shooting Scandal
Portland’s police chief, Larry O’Dea, resigned Monday amid criminal and internal investigations into the shooting his friend during a camping trip to Harney County.
Mayor Charlie Hales made the announcement at a press conference Monday morning.
O’Dea, 54, who had been chief since January 2015, traveled to Harney County in southeast Oregon in April of this year. He shot his friend, Robert Dempsey, in the lower back with a .22 caliber rifle. Dempsey was taken to a Boise hospital, but not seriously hurt.
O’Dea didn’t identify himself as Portland’s police chief when Harney County deputies spoke with him, and the deputy wrote in his report that he smelled of alcohol. O’Dea suggested the shooting had been self-inflicted, according to the sheriff and sheriff’s reports.
O’Dea told the Harney County deputy that his friend may have accidentally shot himself while putting his pistol in his shoulder holster while they were shooting ground squirrels, sheriff’s reports show.
However, four days after the incident. O’Dea confided in Mayor Hales that he actually pulled the trigger. The mayor kept it under wraps and didn’t put O’Dea on paid administrative leave until May 24, a day after details emerged that the chief initially had described the shooting as a self-inflicted accident to a Harney County deputy.
Hales is taking criticism for keeping silent for weeks, and has attempted to defend his silence by blaming the long investigation.
O’Dea’s downfall comes a month after Sheriff Dan Staton of Multnomah County — which includes Portland — retired amid complaints that he, among other things, made inappropriate comments and created a hostile work environment.
Ironically, the man who replaced Staton on an interim basis, Mike Reese, was the Portland police chief until he was replaced by O’Dea.
Asked to explain the merry-go-round, Hales explained that police work is difficult, “particularly when people race to judgment in all things, and we expect — in 140 characters and a few minutes — to resolve every issue.”