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Report: Portland chief smelled of alcohol after shooting

In this March 3 photo, chief of the Portland Police Bureau Larry O’Dea is shown. (Beth Nakamura /The Oregonian / Associated Press)
In this March 3 photo, chief of the Portland Police Bureau Larry O’Dea is shown. (Beth Nakamura /The Oregonian / Associated Press)
Associated Press

PORTLAND – The Portland police chief who was put on leave after revelations he may have lied about accidentally shooting a friend in the back during a hunting trip smelled of alcohol during an interview afterward, according to documents.

A sheriff’s deputy also said in an Oregon Fish & Wildlife report that Larry O’Dea seemed nervous, was shaking and had bloodshot eyes after the April 21 shooting, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported Wednesday.

O’Dea told deputies at the scene that the victim accidentally shot himself and did not mention that he was a law enforcement officer. Four days later, he told the city’s mayor that he accidentally shot his friend with a .22-caliber rifle.

O’Dea’s involvement in the shooting did not emerge until the Harney County sheriff interviewed victim Robert Dempsey nearly a month later.

Mayor Charlie Hales was not required to inform investigators of the chief’s comments about the shooting because “it was clear that an investigation was underway,” spokeswoman Sara Hottman said.

The chief stepped aside this week after multiple agencies launched investigations. He was not available for comment, Portland police said.

The Fish & Wildlife report revealed new details about what led up to the shooting. Dempsey, the victim, told the deputy more than three weeks after he was wounded that O’Dea’s rifle had been jamming and misfiring while they hunted. Dempsey said he was facing away from the chief and didn’t see what happened.

But Dempsey said O’Dea called him later and apologized, saying the chief put down the gun to get a drink and when he picked it back up, the chief “accidentally shot him,” the report said. It was not clear when O’Dea called the victim.

Under Oregon law and local police codes, lying to authorities or negligently hurting someone with a firearm is grounds for dismissal and having a hunting license revoked.

O’Dea, 53, has been with the department for 30 years and took charge of the nation’s 49th largest local police force in January 2015.

The Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon State Police have teamed up on a criminal investigation into the shooting, while Portland police and an independent police review board are conducting their own inquiries.

Assistant Chief Donna Henderson was named as acting chief.

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