Former Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea wasn’t drunk when he allegedly shot his friend Robert Dempsey in Harney County on April 21, according to a statement to the court made by Dempsey.

O’Dea’s attorney filed a motion Friday to dismiss the charge that he negligently wounded Dempsey.

Harney County Circuit Judge William D. Cramer denied a previously filed motion Friday to dismiss O’Dea’s negligent wounding charge on the basis that it was unconstitutionally vague.

Former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea

Former Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea

Courtesy of the Portland Police Bureau

In a signed a declaration to the court, Dempsey said he does not want the state to prosecute his friend.

“I did not and do not desire to criminally prosecute my friend, Lawrence ‘Larry’ O’Dea,” Dempsey wrote. “Larry O’Dea has long been a friend of mine. I consider the incident on April 21, 2016 to be an accident. Larry O’Dea was not intoxicated nor was he impaired by alcohol.”

In his statement to the court, Dempsey said he told this to prosecutors.

“I don’t see any public interest in this prosecution at all,” said O’Dea’s attorney Derek Ashton. “I don’t see any law enforcement policy that would justify the expense they’ve gone to.”

Ashton said it’s unusual to indict someone using a grand jury for a misdemeanor charge, as was the case with O’Dea.

A spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Justice didn’t immediately return a request for comment late Friday.

O’Dea shot his friend Robert Dempsey in Harney County while the two were hunting ground squirrels in April.

“Mr. O’Dea did not knowingly discharge his weapon, and was unaware until some time after the accident that the shot came from his firearm,” according to O’Dea’s Friday court filing. “The accident occurred during an annual camping trip among a group of friends.”

Dempsey was shot in the lower back and was airlifted from the scene to receive medical assistance, according to county dispatch records.


Initially O’Dea told county deputies that Dempsey shot himself, but O’Dea later acknowledged he was the one who shot his friend. At the time, O’Dea told Portland Mayor Charlie Hales that he had shot Dempsey. Like O’Dea, Hales didn’t disclose that information.


Hales told OPB’s Think Out Loud Friday that his first concern when O’Dea told him about the shooting was about his employee’s mental health. 

According to the Harney County Sheriff’s deputy who responded to the incident, O’Dea smelled of alcohol at the time of the shooting.



O’Dea announced his retirement in June, effectively resigning his post at the city’s top police officer.