Officers raided SLO County home, in spite of mistaken identity

Photo of the suspect and Cheyne Orndoff on July 10, 2019

By KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County probation supervisor testified that he told officers who were about to search a couple’s home to look for the police chief’s gun, that they got it wrong.

Supervising Deputy Probation Officer Jeremiah Malzhan testified he told other officers that a security video of the man suspected of taking then-San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell’s gun from a restaurant bathroom did not look like Cheyne Orndoff.

The man in the video was clean-shaven. Orndoff had a full beard and mustache. A dash cam video shows Malzhan stroking his chin as he looks over at Orndoff while speaking with several San Luis Obispo police officers and a sheriff’s deputy.

But despite Malzhan’s concerns that they were about to conduct a search of the wrong man’s home, SLO police officers went ahead with the raid.

Although they did not find the chief’s pistol, officers made a video of the dirty house and paraphernalia in the parent’s bedroom. They arrested Orndoff and Vanessa Bedroni on child neglect charges.

Attorneys for the couple are asking Judge Tim Covello to throw out evidence gathered during the search, arguing that the warrentless July 2019 search was unconstitutional and inadmissible in their case under the exclusionary rule.

The exclusionary rule prevents the government from using any evidence obtained through violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights, here the 4th Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrick contends that the officers who conducted the search had reasonable good faith they were conducting a proper search. In such circumstances, case law allows evidence to be used in prosecutions.

The question is, did the officers act in good faith?

Bedroni’s attorney Peter Depew argues that the officers did not.

The officers who searched the couple’s home relied on their belief that Orndoff was on probation because they looked at partial information in a database that listed him as a probationer. Probationers cannot prevent searches of their property.

But Orndoff was not on probation.

Depew pointed out that there was a tag on the law enforcement database that noted Orndoff was not on probation. A tag that neither a police dispatcher nor a probation officer remember reading while they looked up Orndoff’s status.

Shortly after the unwarranted raid, Dietrick said the officers could see into the filthy home from the front yard, giving officers cause to enter the home without a warrant.

At a hearing two weeks ago, officer Jason Dickel testified that he could not see inside the home from the yard because of the slope. However, Dickel said the front door was open, and he could see inside the house while standing on the porch.

But, video from a police car dash cam shows the screen door, which completely blocks the view of the interior of the house, was closed until the officers entered the home.

On Oct. 15, the court is scheduled to resume the hearing on the motion to suppress the evidence collected during the warrantless search.

Even if the video of the dirty house is ruled inadmissible, Dietrick ensured that it would be seen by the public. While the case is still pending, she gave a copy to the SLO Tribune. In other cases, police and prosecutors have refused to make evidentiary videos available saying that they could not do so because the case had not been resolved.

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