Afternoon Newsletter

SLO police chief expects to be disciplined, gun still missing after she left it in bathroom

More from the series


More coverage on the SLO police chief’s lost gun

Chief Deanna Cantrell left her gun in the bathroom at El Pollo Loco. Who took it and should she be disciplined? Read more here:


Update, 4 p.m. Thursday

San Luis Obispo’s Human Resources Director Monica Irons told The Tribune that the city will investigate Police Chief Deanna Cantrell’s role in leaving a gun behind at a local restaurant.

Irons said the city will review personnel policies, appoint either a third-party or a city investigator to look into the incident and determine whether disciplinary action should be taken.

Irons said if a city employee investigates the incident, it won’t be a police department employee but a staffer with applicable expertise to handle the oversight from another department.

Irons said the city, regardless of the issue, seeks to move as expeditiously as possible to determine personnel-related violations and conduct matters.

“The City is investigating the matter of Chief Cantrell inadvertently leaving her personal firearm in the restroom,” Irons said in a statement. “Our process for doing so will be to gather the facts, consider applicable policies, determine whether there have been policy violations, and assess appropriate action based on the totality of the circumstances.”

Original story

San Luis Obispo’s police chief told The Tribune on Thursday morning that she fully expects to be disciplined by the city for losing her gun at El Pollo Loco restaurant on Los Osos Valley Road.

Chief Deanna Cantrell she had “no qualms” about any punishment for her actions.

Cantrell acknowledged that she was “complacent with my own firearm” while wearing plain clothes.

“The city’s Human Resources Department will do an investigation,” Cantrell said. “I fully expected to be disciplined. What that entails, I’m not sure. That will run its course. Had it been an officer or anyone else, I’d expect the same scrutiny, and I have no qualms about being disciplined.”

The city’s police chief since January 2016 said she had the weapon strapped to her waistband at the Mexican restaurant next to Target, where Cantrell visited about noon Wednesday.

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SLO Police are asking the public’s assistance in identifying this man wearing glasses. He may be in possession of a firearm left behind by Police Chief Deanna Cantrell at El Pollo Loco on Los Osos Valley Road. Anyone with information is asked to call 805-781-7312. Courtesy photo

While using a unisex restroom, she set the gun on a toilet paper dispenser next to her, Cantrell said.

Cantrell said she realized within minutes of leaving the bathroom that she’d left the gun behind, and then reviewed surveillance footage showing a man had gone into the restroom after her for about two minutes. The man then left the eatery and may be in possession of the stolen weapon, she said.

Police are asking the public’s assistance in locating the man in question who is described as balding, wearing a black jacket, lime green and blue striped shorts, and sunglasses.

Cantrell said city police have an active investigation into who may have taken the missing gun, already receiving several tips. Cantrell said she “hates that this happened” and that it “will never happen again.”

“I hope that because of my own complacency and carelessness, other people who carry firearms think twice about guarding their weapon,” Cantrell said. “... I hope the public will help us to find the person who has it.”

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SLO Police Chief Deanna Cantrell reported leaving her gun behind in a bathroom stall at El Pollo Loco on Wednesday. The gun is still missing and police are looking for a man who may have taken it and was captured on video camera surveillance. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

SLO city administrators, including City Manager Derek Johnson and Human Resources District Monica Irons, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Thursday about the next steps for an administrative review of the incident.

Johnson said in a statement Wednesday that Cantrell apologized to him personally, in addition to later issuing a public video apology published on the city’s Facebook page.

“Having carried a firearm safely for 25 years, she is committed to serving as an example of the level of vigilance that must be maintained at all times, regardless of experience or rank,” Johnson said in the 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.
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