Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea and five other hunters were chasing ground squirrels in the Catlow Valley, a remote area in southeastern Oregon, when disaster struck their hunting party.
At approximately 4:37pm on April 21, authorities were alerted of a shooting which quickly dispatched the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, emergency paramedics and a county deputy to the scene. What they found was a man wounded from a single gunshot to his lower back, but was described as “alert and breathing,” dispatch records indicated.
He was promptly airlifted to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho where he was treated for his injuries and released.
The deputy on the scene conducted routine interviews with all the men involved in the incident, where after the discussion; he was left to believe that the incident was one that was self-inflicted.
The injured hunter had accidentally shot himself.
During the interrogation, O’Dea did not disclose his position as Portland’s Chief of Police, or even as a police officer for that matter.
It took nearly a month for the truth about what actually unfolded that day to come to the surface. After finally being able to interview the 54-year-old victim, the deputy learned that the incident was not, in fact, a self-inflicted accident.
“The victim made it pretty clear he didn’t shoot himself,” Sheriff Dave Ward told OregonLive. “The victim knew who shot him.”
The injured man named Larry O’Dea specifically as the one who shot him, sending shock waves through local and state policing agencies.
“As soon as we found out who was involved, and the victim’s statement was different than the statements that had been made at the scene, I contacted Oregon State Police for help in investigating it,” Ward said. “We are in no way willing to participate in, or have been involved in any type of cover-up.”
News reports surrounding the incident surfaced indicating that O’Dea had confided in Portland Mayor Charlie Hales about the incident, informing the mayor that he had wounded his friend with his .22 rifle.
“If he called the mayor and said he had shot his friend, he should have called me as well. I was irritated about that,” Ward said. “He should have picked up the phone and called our office and said this is what happened.”
“If an accident happens, you raise your hand and say here’s what happened,” he said.
Other than officially going public with the news last week, O’Dea has been quiet about the incident and the impending proceedings.
Should the victim wish to prosecute, O’Dea could face charges of fourth-degree assault or negligent wounding in addition to losing his post as police chief, a title that may be at jeopardy whether or not charges are laid.
Image: City of Portland