O'Dea arrest record sealed on judge's order
A Harney County Circuit Court judge has sealed the arrest record of former Portland Police Chief Larry O'Dea in light of the dismissal of charges in his accidental wounding of a friend.
Judge W.D. Cramer's April 13 ruling agreed with a motion filed by O'Dea's lawyer over a Harney County prosecutor's objections, finding that the arrest would be "set aside," as if it never happened. This means that O'Dea, when filling out forms such as a job application, can answer in the negative if asked whether he was arrested or indicted in connection with this case.
The case no longer shows up in the state court's online records system.
The Feb. 22 motion that sparked the change noted that the shooting was accidental and that the victim, O'Dea's friend Robert Dempsey, hadn't wanted charges filed.
"Nonetheless, the Department of Justice ignored Mr. Dempsey's wishes and took the case to grand jury, obtaining an indictment," wrote O'Dea's attorney, Derek Ashton. "Since that time, Mr. O'Dea has endured intense public scrutiny surrounding this matter. Still, he has been a model citizen throughout this process and cooperated and complied with all court orders. Consequently, given Mr. O'Dea's conduct since the indictment, this court should set aside and seal any record of Mr. O'Dea's arrest."
Nearly a year ago, word leaked to reporters that O'Dea had been involved in an accidental shooting while on a camping trip in Harney County on April 21, 2016. A group of friends had been sitting in lawn chairs shooting at sage rats when Robert Dempsey was wounded, they told a Harney County Sheriff's deputy who responded to the scene.
O'Dea told the investigator it appeared Dempsey had shot himself while holstering a pistol. But O'Dea later told Dempsey the bullet came from his gun.
The conflicting accounts fueled accusations of a cover-up that led to O'Dea's retirement in June. A media firestorm also sparked an Oregon Department of Justice investigation that led to an indictment of O'Dea for negligent wounding in October.
O'Dea told investigators he didn't realize until a couple of days after the incident that it was his gun that fired the shot, saying he wasn't holding it at the time. His rifle proved to have a manufacturer's defect that has been linked to more than 50 accidental shootings, some fatal.
Records released after the case was dismissed showed O'Dea's account was contradicted by two of his friends. They told investigators that O'Dea had the rifle pointed at Dempsey at the time of the shooting.
O'Dea told investigators he didn't immediately disclose his role after he realized it was his rifle, because he knew the deputy investigating the shooting had gone on vacation. He said he had asked Dempsey to mention it. Dempsey, however, gave a different version to investigators, saying O'Dea told him that he'd already told Harney County it was his gun that fired the shot.
Those records now will be sealed under the judge's order.
The case was dismissed in connection with a civil compromise reached after the victim, Dempsey, said he had received satisfaction for his damages and did not wish the prosecution to continue.
O'Dea has strongly denied wrongdoing and sought to defend his reputation. Last November his lawyer submitted a lawsuit threat to the state saying, "Larry O'Dea has suffered and continues to suffer damages including, but not limited to, impairment of his reputation and standing in the community, personal humiliation, loss of employment, and mental anguish and suffering."