SLO police chief shares new details about search for missing gun — and an unrelated arrest

New details have come to light about the search for San Luis Obispo police chief’s missing gun, which included a police visit to a San Luis Obispo County probationer’s home and unrelated arrests on child endangerment charges, SLO officials said.

To dispel “recent allegations and insinuations,” Police Chief Deanna Cantrell spoke to The Tribune on Monday about the steps she and other department officials took in the hours after Cantrell inadvertently left her weapon, a Glock 42, in an El Pollo Loco bathroom on Los Osos Valley Road on July 10.

Cantrell said in the first two hours after losing the weapon she contacted multiple city officials, registered the lost gun in a national database, issued a public Facebook post asking for assistance in locating the man who took it, and assigned the case to a SLOPD officer, among other actions.

Cantrell said that she realized her gun was missing about 12:55 p.m., after losing it at 12:33 p.m. that day.

“The city of San Luis Obispo has been transparent about this incident from the beginning,” Cantrell said. “Recent allegations and insinuations are simply not true.”

Cantrell reviewed the restaurant’s surveillance video, which showed the man suspected of taking the gun. He was later identified as Skeeter Carlos Mangan, 30, of Los Osos. Mangan turned the gun over to police on July 12, police said.

Cantrell said at 1:07 p.m. she made a call to her department’s dispatch, which was dropped, and she called back on her cell to reach the dispatch supervisor and report the incident. She said there was no attempt to hide the incident on an unrecorded line, as rumored.

Joe Johnston

Cantrell issued the city police Facebook post at 2:04 p.m. on July 10, showing a surveillance photo of the man believed to be in possession of a stolen firearm without specifically saying it was the chief’s gun that had been taken.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the Morro Bay Police Department contacted SLOPD saying the suspect appeared to be a probationer they were familiar with, according to Cantrell and City Attorney Christine Dietrick.

“At that point, I was not involved (with the case) because I was technically the victim,” Cantrell said.

Dietrick said city police investigators went to the SLO County man’s home, and figured out quickly it wasn’t the same person from the surveillance video.

But they also observed conditions at the home that they considered to be criminally dangerous for the two young children of the mother and father who lived there, both of whom were arrested on felony child endangerment charges, the SLO officials said.

Suzie Walsh, a SLOPD detective with extensive experience in child crime cases, was one of the investigators who conducted the search, they added.

Dietrick declined to detail what detectives found in the home or to name the parents, partly due to sensitivity to the children involved in the case.

“The terms of the probation include a requirement that he submit to searches of his person, home or car, on request by any law enforcement officer, without a warrant or probable cause,” Cantrell said. “In addition, the condition of the home that led to the arrests was visible from the front door. No doors were kicked down, and the minor children were not kept at the Police Department overnight.”

Cantrell acknowledged that a law enforcement notification teletype (commonly referred to as a “be on the lookout” or “BOLO” alert to other local law agencies) should have gone out sooner in the day on July 10.

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A photo of the new El Pollo Loco restaurant at 11982 Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo. Courtesy photo

Cantrell said she approved the alert in the early afternoon, but a staff miscommunication led to a delay. The BOLO alert, which isn’t a legal requirement, went out that night, Cantrell said.

“Best practice is that it should have gone out earlier,” Cantrell said. “But I did approve the alert and it just slipped through the cracks.”

Cantrell said that her department’s staff was preparing for the security of an emotionally charged Coastal Commission meeting on the Oceano Dunes the next day, which contributed to the mixup.

“Ultimately, though, that’s on me,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the notification of her lost gun to the national Automated Firearms System database was entered about 2:30 p.m. on July 10.

At 10:33 p.m. that night, Cantrell issued a video statement posted on Facebook, apologizing to the public for the mistake.

Cantrell said that other than wishing the BOLO alert had gone out sooner, the investigation into the lost gun was handled reasonably.

“The city attorney has reviewed the facts of the search of the home and resulting arrests for child neglect and is confident that San Luis Obispo Police Department detectives acted legally and appropriately,” Cantrell said in a statement.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.