Attorney files to suppress evidence in SLO police chief's lost gun search


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The defense attorney for a woman charged with child endangerment last year after the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) conducted a warrantless search of her home during its hunt for Chief Deanna Cantrell's missing weapon filed a motion in court to suppress all evidence from the search.

The July motion—which was followed by a Sept. 8 brief detailing the events of July 10, 2019—asks that the court throw out all evidence that the SLOPD gathered that day, including observations, impressions, photographs, defendant and police officer statements or memories, and toxicology results.

SLO County residents Vanessa Bedroni and Cheyne Ordnoff face two felony counts of child endangerment after officers allegedly found the residence to be unsafe for their two children.

The search occurred hours after Cantrell left her loaded Glock 42 handgun in an El Pollo Loco bathroom in SLO. Suspecting that Orndoff may possess the weapon due to his resemblance to a man captured in restaurant surveillance footage, police went into his home on the same day without a warrant based on false information in a law enforcement database showing that Orndoff was on probation.

See related PDF Depew_brief_Sept._8.pdf

Bedroni's attorney, Peter Depew, argued in his brief that "reckless police work and negligent record keeping" resulted in a violation of the couple's constitutional rights, and that admitting the evidence for the prosecution "would bless their behavior with the stamp of good faith."

"This court should not elevate the bureaucratic shortcomings of government over the rights of citizens," it reads.

Depew's brief recapped various events and conversations that transpired among law enforcement agents on July 10, 2019, drawn from information obtained during discovery.

According to the brief, the handgun Cantrell left in the bathroom, a Glock 42, is banned in California for civilian use and was loaded with hollow-point bullets. From the time Cantrell lost the weapon around noon to when the search of the house took place seven hours later, Cantrell placed approximately 40 calls from her personal cellphone to unrecorded lines. Her initial call to SLOPD's dispatch line was reportedly dropped.

The brief also quotes a SLOPD sergeant discussing the department's failure to issue a timely BOLO [be on the lookout] alert to other agencies about the gun. At the time, the sergeant told the SLO County Sheriff's Office: "I think what happened, to be honest with you, was it looked like they tried to keep it on the DL a little bit and assign it out to our undercover detectives and let them kind of run with it without letting too many people know yet. And then it kind of got carried away."

Sheriff's deputies were called to assist SLOPD with its search of Bedroni and Orndoff's home—which was outside city limits on O'Connor Way. The brief quotes from a recording of two deputies who questioned the operation.

"Call me a cynic, but I don't have total confidence in the fact that they've worked this out all the way through. You know what I mean?" one deputy says.

"Oh no, absolutely," the other responds.

The deputies agreed, according to the brief, that Sheriff's Office resources would be there "to keep the peace and that's it," and then declined to send a page or put it in the police log "because of the sensitive nature of it."

In a conversation among officers that took place just before they searched the O'Connor Way home, an officer is quoted saying, "We are going to search no matter what." When Orndoff tried to explain to officers that he was not on probation and had proof of it in his car, an officer allegedly said, "Well, I don't really care."

During the search operation, 15 of the 16 officers present didn't have their body cameras on, violating SLOPD policy, and the one who did allegedly waited more than an hour to activate it.

In a conversation between a sheriff's watch commander and sheriff's deputy chief that allegedly transpired after SLOPD's search failed to locate Cantrell's weapon, the officers spoke critically of the department's handling of the incident.

"Basically, at this point they don't know where the gun's at," the watch commander said. "So I asked their captain, are you guys planning on putting some sort of, you know, BOLO for local agencies, cause they apparently put this on Facebook ... six hours ago, but never bothered telling any of the local agencies."

Later in the exchange, the deputy chief allegedly said, "I tell you what, if Cheyne [Orndoff] decides he wants to file a complaint against San Luis PD, he's got a pretty good beef. ... I'm really glad we decided to play it cautious with them because what a surprise, their info wasn't good."

"Well and that's why I called you," the watch commander responded, "because I'm like, you know, I've dealt with SLOPD enough to know that whatever they're telling me, only a fraction of it is going to be correct."

"Because they have a really bad habit of not vetting stuff all the way through," the deputy chief said.

A hearing on the defense's motion to suppress evidence is scheduled for Sept. 24. The SLO County DA's Office opposed the motion, calling the conditions of the defendants' home "deplorable and wholly unsafe for children." Δ



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