By KAREN VELIE
Attempts by San Luis Obispo city administrators to limit and manipulate information about the police chief’s failure to retain her firearm has led the family of the man who found the gun in a bathroom stall to accuse city officials of attempting to mislead the public.
At about noon on July 10, Chief Deanna Cantrell left her pistol in the bathroom of an El Pollo Loco restaurant. A short time later, Skeeter Mangan walked into the bathroom and discovered the loaded and unattended firearm.
Mangan put the gun in his pocket, left the restaurant, rode his moped scooter home, and put the firearm in a dresser drawer.
After spotting Mangan on the news on July 11, as the person suspected of having the chief’s gun, Mangan’s brother-in-law, Sean Greenwood, drove to Los Osos to ask Mangan about the firearm.
Mangan is painfully shy and often nonverbal, family members said. He does not own a cell phone, a computer or a car. At 30 years old, Mangan lives at his father’s home in Los Osos.
“My dear brother-in-law not only found a loaded and chambered Glock (a pistol with only one safety, on the trigger) in a public restroom, he removed it moments before a 10-year-old boy entered the room,” Greenwood said. “I asked my brother-in-law about what had happened, he explained to me he didn’t know what to do with the gun so he placed it in a drawer and contemplated how to find the owner.”
Greenwood then removed the bullets from the gun and drove Mangan to the sheriff’s substation on 10th Street in Los Osos to return the gun; but the station was unattended, Greenwood said. Greenwood then called the SLO Police Department and spoke with a dispatcher who sent officers to the substation to collect the firearm.
The officers collected the gun, thanked Greenwood and Mangan, and said they did not plan to charge Mangan based on Penal Code 485, Greenwood said.
According to Penal Code 485, a person is guilty of theft if they find property, and appropriate the property for their own use, “without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to the owner.”
Shortly after Mangan returned the firearm, the city issued a press release that said he was a suspect in the theft of the chief’s firearm.
It was only after reading a Tribune article that claimed Greenwood turned his brother-in-law in, that Mangan’s family discovered the police department had asked the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to consider charging Mangan with possession of a stolen firearm.
“Little did Skeeter know, he would be ridiculed and labeled by media and some, to me, quite broken souls commenting about his appearance. When really, if you stop and think about it, he quite possibly saved a child’s life by removing the firearm,” Greenwood said.
In response to questions about the incident, both Cantrell and city attorney Christine Dietrick refused to answer any questions from reporters about the investigation into the lost gun.
“As noted in the press release regarding the incident involving the Chief’s gun, the City does not intend to issue any further statements regarding that matter,” Dietrick wrote in an email. “As it relates to any other matter that may be the subject of your request for comment below, the City will not discuss the details of any ongoing criminal investigation and cannot discuss any details of any matter involving minor children.”
However, after CalCoastNews reported allegations that the chief had failed to promptly inform area law enforcement about the lost gun, that the chief asked police department employee Christine Steeb to call her back on a non-recorded line, and that officers arrested a man misidentified as the person who took the gun, the chief sent a statement and a timeline to KSBY and KCOY.
In KSBY’s timeline, the news station falsely reported that detectives arrested Mangan, but later took the statement off their website.
“At the end of the day, someone whom we trust and allow to legally carry a firearm, negligently left one on top of a toilet paper dispenser, at a child’s eye level, in a public bathroom,” Greenwood said. “Now I truly feel sorry for this woman. I can not begin to imagine the feelings she must be going through. But can we maybe just work on these desperate, attention grabbing headlines, please!”