By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell has agreed to release her personal cell phone records in a criminal case that arose after the chief lost her pistol in the bathroom of an El Pollo Loco restaurant.
Cheyne Orndoff and Vannesa Bedroni face charges of child neglect after police searched their home without a warrant as they tried to locate the chief’s pistol. Peter Depew and Jason Dufurrena, attorneys for the couple, filed motions for the chief’s and other officers’ cell phone records to show that police did not follow proper procedures in the run up to the warrantless search of the home.
Orndoff objected to the search. Both he and Bedroni said they were with their two children in Atascadero at a medical appointment at the time that Cantrell lost her pistol. They were not at the El Pollo Loco, they said.
Police went ahead and searched the couple’s home even though Orndoff, who has a beard and a full head of hair, did not resemble a clean-shaven man seen in a surveillance video from the restaurant who actually had found and taken the chief’s pistol.
Police did not find the chief’s pistol in the house but, instead, charged the couple with child neglect claiming that the home was dirty.
Cantrell left her pistol in the bathroom of the El Pollo Loco restaurant about noon on July 10. In an attempt to get her gun back without the incident becoming public knowledge, Cantrell did not inform most patrol officers that she suspected someone had stolen her loaded gun until almost seven hours later.
Instead, Cantrell made a call with her cell phone to a dispatcher. A SLO police officer, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his employment, said Cantrell asked dispatcher Christine Steeb to call her back, cell phone to cell phone, in an apparent attempt to keep the call from being recorded.
“The call fell off so I called her back on my cell phone,” Steeb said.
And so, without a recording, a report of “lost property” was logged in at 2:09 p.m.
San Luis Obispo administrators hired two private attorneys to stop the release of the chief’s cell phone records, Roy Hanley of Atascadero to represent the city and Howard Liberman of Los Angeles to represent Cantrell.
During two hearings, Hanley argued the chief’s cell phone records could contain sensitive and personal information, and should not be released.
However, before a Sept. 5 hearing, Hanley and Liberman agreed to release the cell phone records. On Oct. 3, the attorneys will return to court to further discuss any issues with discovery.
On the day she lost her pistol, Cantrell checked surveillance footage at the restaurant as she tried to find her firearm. She saw that three people had entered the restroom after her, two of whom were still in the restaurant and did not have her gun, Cantrell said.
The third person, who was the first to enter the restroom after Cantrell left, was not in the restaurant. The man, later identified as 30-year-old Skeeter Carlos Mangan of Los Osos, was shown in the video – clean-shaven and balding.
An officer who was helping in the search for the “lost property” saw the video and said he recognized the man and provided a home address.
Shortly before 7 p.m., a group of five detectives were dispatched to Orndoff’s home and conducted the search over his objection. A detective who led the search told Orndoff that police did not need a warrant because, as the detective said erroneously, Orndoff was on probation.
After a reporter sent the chief a copy of the documents showing Orndoff was not on probation, the city released a statement saying officers could see inside the house from the front yard, as probable cause for a warrantless entry. If evidence of a crime is “in plain view” where police can see it without entering a property, no warrant is needed.
“In addition, the condition of the home that led to the arrests was visible from the front door,” according to a July 29 city statement in which the city concedes that Orndoff was not on probation.
However, SLO County Assistant Chief Probation Officer Robert Reyes refuted the city’s claim saying the inside of the home was not visible from the outside.
At a preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 17, prosecutors and defense attorneys will argue about the police department’s justification for entering the home without a warrant and if there is sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.