SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — The chief of a California police department says she left her gun in a restroom and it was immediately stolen and now officials are looking for a man seen in restaurant surveillance video leaving shortly after the weapon vanished.
San Luis Obispo Chief Deanna Cantrell revealed her mistake in a video on the department's Facebook page, saying her actions were "irresponsible and dangerous" and that she's glad a child didn't find the weapon.
Cantrell said she was having lunch in a restaurant on Wednesday when she went into the restroom.
"Even though my gun was in a holster it didn't stay clipped to my pants so I removed it and I placed it next to me," she said.
Cantrell said within minutes of leaving the restroom she realized what had happened and went back, but the gun was gone.
She immediately checked video footage and saw that three people entered the restroom after her.
"The first man, whose photo was released on Facebook, went into the restroom after me and then immediately left the restaurant without ordering any food," she said.
The other two people were still in the restaurant and said the firearm was not in the restroom when they went in, she said.
The photo of the possible suspect shows the man wearing a shirt, shorts and sunglasses apparently entering the El Pollo Loco restaurant.
The chief said she reported the theft immediately and the gun was entered into a national database.
"I was complacent and that's something you can never be with a firearm," she said. "I expect more from myself as a person and especially as a police officer that has carried a firearm for 25 years."
Cantrell has been police chief in San Luis Obispo since January 2016. She previously spent 21 years with the Mesa, Arizona, Police Department, where she rose from traffic and patrol duty through numerous positions to assistant chief of the administrative service bureau.
"I expect to be held accountable and I want to publicly apologize for my carelessness, and I hope that in some way this serves as a lesson for others," Cantrell said.
San Luis Obispo, a city of 47,000 and home to California Polytechnic State University, is in the Central Coast region between Los Angeles and San Francisco.