Ex-PPB chief’s friend, shooting victim wants case dismissed

"I did not and do not desire to criminally prosecute my friend"

Larry O'Dea was named Portland Police Bureau Chief on Oct. 7, 2014 (PPB)
Larry O'Dea was named Portland Police Bureau Chief on Oct. 7, 2014 (PPB)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The man accidentally shot by then-Portland police chief Larry O’Dea has asked the state not to prosecute and wants the judge to dismiss the criminal case, according to a motion filed Friday by O’Dea’s lawyer.

Robert Dempsey, the longtime friend of O’Dea’s, signed an affidavit filed with the new motion, saying “I did not and do not desire to criminally prosecute my friend … I consider the incident on April 21, 2016 to be an accident. … I want the pending criminal prosecution and charges against Larry O’Dea to be dismissed.”

The filing formally asked the case be dropped in favor of a civil compromise — essentially a monetary settlement.

The motion is the latest development in the saga of how a relatively new chief underwent a sudden and bizarre downfall. The failure of the chief and other city officials to disclose and investigate the incident led to cries of cover-up and malfeasance — sparked by a day spent shooting at rodents.

On April 21, O’Dea and a bunch of friends, many of whom had been drinking, had been sitting in a line of lawn chairs, shooting at sage rats.

O’Dea later told the investigating Harney County sheriff’s deputy that O’Dea put his gun down, took a couple of steps to get a drink, heard Dempsey groan, and looked over to see Dempsey with an empty shoulder holster, holding his left side, according to the deputy’s report. O’Dea told the deputy it appeared Dempsey shot himself. The deputy said O’Dea smelled of alcohol and “was visibly nervous and shaking.”

But the bullet came from O’Dea’s gun, and the weapon had been malfunctioning all day, witnesses later said.

Days later, O’Dea called Dempsey to apologize, but didn’t call the investigator. Harney Sheriff Dave Ward eventualy went public calling O’Dea’s handling of the case a “cover-up.” A firestorm of media coverage led to the announcement of O’Dea’s retirement on June 26.

Outgoing Mayor Charlie Hales blamed a “trial by media” and “smearing” for O’Dea’s departure, predicting that the former chief would be vindicated as the truth came out.

In October a Harney County grand jury indicted O’Dea for negligent wounding. The case is being handled by the Oregon Department of Justice rather than the Harney County District Attorney.

Since then, O’Dea’s version of events has started to trickle out: first, that he wasn’t drunk, and secondly, that he only realized days after the incident that it was his weapon that fired the shot.

A investigation by the city Independent Police Review office into why the police bureau didn’t investigate has not been completed.

In his affidavit, Dempsey states that he has already “received full satisfaction for my damages and injuries” that stemmed from the shooting, adding that he supports a civil compromise of the case.

The filing does not say how much Dempsey received.

The filing came after a judge rejected an earlier motion challenging the charge against O’Dea as unconstitutional and vague.