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Posted on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

EMU Police Chief Greg O'Dell mourned after his death at age 54

By Kyle Feldscher

Eastern Michigan University police Chief Greg O’Dell died Friday at the age of 54 after an apparent suicide just west of Ann Arbor, police confirmed late this afternoon.


Greg O'Dell

Courtesy of EMU

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derrick Jackson said Ann Arbor police received a call from a family member at O’Dell’s home Friday morning reporting a possible suicide note. Jackson said police later found O’Dell’s vehicle near Huron River Drive west of Wagner Road.

Jackson said police found O’Dell dead of an apparent suicide when they arrived in the area.

Police had the area near the scene closed off since 12:30 p.m. and are continuing to investigate the incident. Jackson said police are continuing to look for information about the incident.

The news left Washtenaw County's law enforcement community mourning a respected colleague who'd been active in this community for more than 30 years. At least one officer was seen in tears at the scene.

Saline police Chief Paul Bunten knew O'Dell since he began working at the Ann Arbor Police Department and was extremely shocked when he heard the news Friday. Bunten said O’Dell was a wonderful human being, a very bright and smart administrator and a real good police officer.

“He was able to deal with very difficult issues and he made them look so easy, to be honest with you,” Bunten said. “I’m just so saddened by this.”

O’Dell had just returned to EMU as police chief after a three-month stint as police chief of the University of Michigan Public Safety Department.

At the time, he told, “The complete driving force in making this decision is I just really had an opportunity to return to a job that I loved. There wasn’t any bad thing about Michigan, I really loved it. I’ve had a career now where I’ve worked in four different police agencies and I’ve loved every agency I’ve been with.

"Given where I’m at in my career, I think returning to Eastern is the best decision for me to make at this point.”

O’Dell had been in law enforcement for 30 years, spending the majority of that time with the Ann Arbor Police Department. O’Dell was with the AAPD for more than 20 years and ended his tenure there as the deputy chief of police, also serving as interim police chief.

He spent three-and-a-half years in charge of the EMU Department of Public Safety before coming to the U-M Department of Public Safety.

O’Dell graduated from Eastern Michigan and received a law degree from the University of Toledo. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy and the EMU school for police staff and command.

Detective Don Lupi, of the Saline Police Department, said he and O’Dell worked on a case together 18 years ago and O’Dell never forgot him afterward. He said they had run into each other at a number of events over the years and O’Dell always made time for conversation.

“I worked with him back in the Ann Arbor days when he was a polygraph operator,” Lupi said. “He was a top-notch investigator and a top-notch guy.”

Lupi said one of the most inspiring things about O’Dell was how he always made time for lower-ranked officers as he moved up the chain of command.

“It didn’t matter how high he moved up the ladder,” he said. “Greg always had time for people on the front line and it was inspiring for us.”

Bunten said he and O’Dell often played golf and had just spoke with each other a few days ago. Bunten said there was no indication when they spoke that something was wrong.

EMU president Susan Martin issued this statement Friday evening: "We are profoundly shocked and saddened by this news. Chief Greg O'Dell's death is an enormous loss to Eastern Michigan University and the Washtenaw County area. Chief O'Dell was wonderful man who was deeply admired for his tremendous contributions to the Ann Arbor and Eastern Michigan communities.

"He was respected both as a caring person and as a highly accomplished police officer. He was a beloved and key member of the leadership team of Eastern and I will personally deeply miss him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends at this very difficult time."

Roy Wilbanks, chair of the EMU Board of Regents, called O'Dell "a professional in every sense of the word" and said he made a tremendous impact at the university.

"Chief O'Dell will be missed by all of us here at Eastern," Wilbanks said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time."

Many Washtenaw County law enforcement officials offered their condolences to O'Dell's family.

Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker said O'Dell was a friend of hers that she had worked with closely during his years at Eastern Michigan. She said the Ypsilanti police would offer their assistance to O'Dell's family and the EMU community in whatever way they could.

"He was my friend and I am deeply saddened," Walker said. "My prayers go out to his friends and family. He was a true professional."

"I'll miss my friend and all we were able to do," she added.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton called O'Dell an excellent law enforcement official and said he would be deeply missed.

“Greg was a good friend and this is a tremendous loss to law enforcement in Washtenaw County and most importantly his family,” Clayton said. “We offer our prayers and support to them.”

O'Dell's former colleagues at the University of Michigan were also shocked and saddened at the news of his death Friday. The university issued this statement through spokesman Rick Fitzgerald: "All of us at the University of Michigan express our deepest condolences to the family of Greg O’Dell."

"We also express our sincere sympathy to his many friends, colleagues, and to the entire law enforcement community."

"Greg was a good man. He will be missed."

Officials from Ann Arbor police declined comment when reached Friday afternoon. Police Chief Barnett Jones and Deputy Police Chief John Seto were unable to be reached.

Resources exist in Washtenaw County for people who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide. Anyone in that circumstance is urged to get immediate help. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Military veterans press #1 ). 734-662-2222 Ozone House is a 24 hour hotline for youth. 734-996-4747 is a 24-hour hotline at U of M Psychiatric Emergency Services.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

'TO PROTECT AND SERVE' : While mourning the loss of precious life, I reflect upon the motto of Police Department which guides its personnel to protect lives and serve the needs of the citizens. This ideal to protect and serve may naturally include the basic rights of Police personnel to defend their own lives in the performance of their duties. In this context, I would encourage people to protect and defend their own lives from their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Since protecting life is a sacred duty and obligation, a suicidal thought, emotion, or feeling must be viewed as an enemy as its intent is inimical to the existence of life. If I could be trained to defend the lives of others; if I am trained to defend myself from an attack by a murderous criminal; it is reasonable to seek training to defend oneself from a suicidal thought that may extinguish the light of life.


Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

I had the honor and privilege of working with Chief O'Dell for several years. He was kind yet firm; caring yet fastidious in his upholding of the law. His smile was genuine; he had a firm handshake, looked you in the eyes when you spoke, was quick with a laugh or smile, and truly cared about people. He was gentle, had a huge heart, was diplomatic yet swift in dealing with difficult situations. An outstanding human being. This loss will have widespread impact on our community for years to come. A tremendous and painful loss for the O'Dell family. My heartfelt sympathies are extended to his family and friends. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this terrible time.


Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Susan Martin: "Chief O'Dell was wonderful man..." I know the editing team at isn't exactly top-notch, but please show some respect to the people grieving the loss of O'Dell and fix that glaring typo. My condolences to the O'Dell family.

Cendra Lynn

Sun, Dec 25, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

We will miss Gregg so much. He was a good person, a good law enforcement officer, a shining example. My deepest condolences to those close to him. Anyone dealing with the death of a loved one is welcome at our online grief support groups at GriefNet. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

Very Sad this is. He sounds like a really great person and great for law enforcement. We lost one of the good ones today.

Kevin McNulty

Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

During my time at UM DPS I had the benefit of working with Greg on many cases. He was one of the best. Rest in Peace, Greg. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

Wow!!! How very sad all the way around. We should all keep them in our prayers, this is gonna take a lot to heal from.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

My prayers are with Greg's family at their time of bereavement. I personally knew Greg and he was the utmost professional in every aspect of his duties as both deputy police chief and more importantly as a person. As a father who has a daughter at EMU, when it was announced he would become Public Safety Director there, I slept a little easier. I also felt that he should had been made chief of police for Ann Arbor instead of the city going outside for whatever reason. Greg was just a great person, didn't hide behind the badge and always treated people with respect for the simple fact that they were humans. He will be missed.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

I know the O'Dell's, he only has 2 daughters as I was good friends with one of them. Try researching your stories,

Tony Dearing

Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

We regret including information in this story that was given incorrectly to us, and we have removed that from the story.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

I have many prayers for his many friends. Tough news, indeed.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

I am sorry. That should have read &quot; and many friends.&quot; Please accept both my deepest condolences and apologies above.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

What a sad sad story. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. RIP.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:07 a.m.

The weird thing is I had a dream last night in the exact spot where his car was found. This is extremely sad news for anyone to bare. My hope, thoughts, prayers, everything I can give goes out to this mans family and loved ones. For he will be forever missed.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 3 a.m.

What a sad condolences to his family and friends.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

Very sad. My sympathy for the family and friends. Mr. O' Dell sounded like a good person and it's sad to see this kind of loss at the holidays.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:47 a.m.

This is really sad for all concerned, especially his family. Any death at this time of year is difficult, but a suicide is particularly hard on everyone. Needless to say, something was going on in his life, with a very short stint at UM and then a return to a former job at EMU. Probably only his family knew the challenges he faced and struggles he had in his life. He sounded like a good person and someone who was highly regarded, and it's sad when a life is lost in this way.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:16 a.m.

:O that was my face when I saw the article title. My thoughts are with the family during this very difficult time. So sorry for their loss.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

Prayers &amp; sympathy to the family &amp; all who knew Greg.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:12 a.m.

Even more tragic at this time of the year. Prayers and kind thoughts for the family and may God bring him peace and healing in the life beyond.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

As a recent EMU grad, I have many memories of Chief O'Dell walking the campus and always with a smile on his face. He made time to chat with students and made you feel like you were a welcome part of the community. This is so very sad on so many levels. I will keep his family and many friends in my thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace Chief O'Dell, you touched more people than you knew.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

My heart and prayers go out to Chief O 'Dells family, UM, EMU, Ann Arbor Police Department...devastating and tragic. I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so sorry.

Frustrated in A2

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

I had the opportunity to work with Greg. A very good person, all the way around. He will truly be missed. I can't totally express how I feel right now. My prayers go out to his family.

Momma G

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

My prayers go out to Chief O'Dell's family. So sad that he thought this was the only way out of whatever was troubling him, especially since he was known as a &quot;helper&quot; to the community. I'm sure his family is asking &quot;why&quot; and especially at this time of year. I hope they find comfort in the Lord!

Kai Petainen

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

NO! This is horrible. I am disheartened and sad. What horrible, horrible news. I did not get the chance to meet him, but I thought he was doing a fantastic job at UofM, and I felt that he was a fantastic person as well. He was one of those folks that I wish I had met, that I wish I had the chance to say (in person)... thank you. My heart goes out to his family and those at EMU and UofM's DPS. This is tragic. My prayers and thoughts to everyone....


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:45 p.m.

RIP Chief. You will be missed!

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

This is so tragic. My best wishes and prayers go out to the family and friends of Chief O'Dell.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

So much unfortunate news lately. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Chief O'Dell.

Monica R-W

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Condolences to Chief Dell's family. May God be your glide during this difficult time.

monroe c

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Rest in peace, Chief O'Dell. I'm sorry to see you go so soon.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

This is terrible news. I am so sorry that he felt that he needed to do this. My thoughts are with his family and friends and all that knew him. May he rest in peace.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

Very sad. A professional and dedicated member of law enforcement. He shall be missed.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

My heart aches for this family - may your faith and family support you through this horrible tragedy., thank you for posting the suicide resources on the original story, I hope you do the same here.

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

That's a great idea, I've added that info into the bottom of the story.