SLO police chief must release records of search for missing gun, judge rules

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell must release her texts and emails, along with other recorded police communications, related to the July search for her missing gun, a SLO Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Tim Covello issued a ruling Tuesday that Cantrell and other members of the prosecution team, including other SLO police officers, must disclose their recorded communications regarding the identification of Cheyne Orndoff and his wife, Vanessa Bedroni, who were drawn into the case when Orndoff was mistakenly identified as a suspect.

The couple faces felony child endangerment charges after police searched their home off Foothill Boulevard on July 10, the same afternoon they were looking for the gun that Cantrell inadvertently left behind in an El Pollo Loco restroom.

Cantrell discovered the weapon wasn’t strapped to her waist after she set it aside momentarily on the toilet paper dispenser. By the time she returned to retrieve it, the gun was gone, setting the department off on a search for the missing firearm.

Orndoff was believed to be the person who took the gun based on camera surveillance captured at the business — as police cited his similar appearance to the man who actually took and later returned the weapon, 30-year-old Skeeter Carlos Mangan.

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Cheyne Orndoff at a hearing related to felony child endangerment charges after SLO police searched their home without a warrant on July 10. He and Vanessa Bedroni have pleaded not guilty. David Middlecamp

Defense attorneys will receive disclosed records

The police records will be provided to the defense attorneys for Orndoff and Bedroni as part of the case discovery, which refers to the process of determining which evidence must be released to both sides leading up to a trial.

Attorneys for the couple, who pleaded not guilty to charges, filed a motion to make the records available — which the prosecution contested.

Covello ruled the records that must be disclosed include “any and all communications sent or received by or between” SLOPD employees and the prosecution team, including Cantrell’s correspondences.

Vanessa Bedroni at a hearing related to felony child endangerment charges after SLO police searched their home without a warrant on July 10. She and Cheyne Orndoff have pleaded not guilty. David Middlecamp

That includes photographs, audio or video recordings, 911 calls, law enforcement “be on the lookout” alerts, or other records that resulted directly or indirectly in the search of the couple’s home, Covello wrote in his ruling.

The disclosure also includes communications related to the identification of the person alleged to have taken the gun — Mangan — as well as all SLO city press releases pertaining to the arrest of the defendants.

Two days after the incident, Mangan admitted he took the gun home and returned it to the Police Department. Mangan was not charged with a crime, though charges of grand theft of a firearm, possessing a loaded firearm in a public place, and burglary were recommended by SLOPD.

Orndoff and Bedroni are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, but it’s likely to be pushed to a later date as both sides are still working on getting discovery for review, according to the DA’s Office.

The criminal case moves forward on home search

SLOPD launched a search for the missing gun on the afternoon of July 10, putting out a notice on social media seeking the suspect, followed by a formal press release that night.

Later that day, police ended up at Orndoff’s home based on a tip from the Morro Bay Police Department. After assessing conditions inside the home from outside the front door, the city said, officers entered to search the property despite not having a warrant.

They thought they didn’t need one because a clerical error in a law enforcement database led them to believe that Orndoff was on probation and subject to search at any time, the city said.

In fact, Ordoff’s brother, Cole Paul Orndoff, falsely impersonated him in 2017 by using his name in a drug-related arrest. Court documents show that Cheyne Orndoff’s name was an alias used by Cole, possibly creating the database confusion, though the origin of the mixup is unclear.

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SLO Police Chief Deanna Cantrell lost her gun after leaving it behind in a bathroom stall at El Pollo Loco on July 10. The gun was recovered after a Los Osos man, Skeeter Carlos Mangan, turned it in. Mangan is pictured in this surveillance image. Courtesy photo

Police arrested Bedroni and Orndoff after alleging they discovered methamphetamine and needles, which endangered the couple’s two young children, according to Deputy District Attorney Phillip Joo.

Joo touched upon the prosecution’s evidence at a previous hearing related to the visitation of the kids, though he didn’t get into specifics at the time, which could come in future court hearings.

In response to the accusation regarding the needles, Orndoff previously told The Tribune that he had a prescription to inject a medication that requires them.

Orndoff provided a photograph of the medication with his name and dosage detailed on the side of the vial, saying he is currently prescribed two injections per week.

Defense attorneys in the case are expected to argue that without a warrant, the search was illegal.

SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrick, however, has cited case law that shows that if officers believe a warrantless search is allowable based on “a court-maintained, computer-generated search,” the evidence collected inside a defendant’s home can’t be suppressed in court.

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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.