She dropped a load in the ladies room… and it’s causing quite the stink across America tonight.

But we’re talking about a police chief who forgot to take her gun out of the potty.

Say hello to Chief Deanna Cantrell of the San Luis Obispo Police Department in California.

She took to Facebook on Thursday to apology to America for totally dropping the ball – correction – the gun – when dropping her pants.

She 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.

Chief Cantrell said that her actions were “irresponsible and dangerous,” adding that there is no excuse for her actions and that she is glad a child did not find the service weapon.

She was having lunch in a restaurant on Wednesday and went in to use 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.

Within minutes of leaving the restroom, she realized what had happened and went back to retrieve the pistol, only to find it gone. They immediately checked the surveillance footage, finding that 3 people had gone into the restroom between her first visit and her return. The first, a man who went into the restroom then left the store without ordering, and two others who were still in the restaurant. They claimed the weapon was not in the restroom and they did not have it in their possession.

They put out a post with an image of the person who they believe took the gun.

The theft was immediately reported, 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. 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 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.

Our hopes are that the individual that removed the gun from the premises turns the weapon back over to the police department. There will be charges filed once they find him. It might be easier if he cooperates and returns it.

City Manager Derek Johnson spoke with Chief Cantrell.  Afterwards, he said:

“I wanted to reassure our community that protecting the public’s safety is our number one priority.”

Chief Cantrell is voluntarily attending training on firearms safety practices. While this error was egregious, an error that a 25-year veteran of law enforcement should not make, is it forgivable? Should the chief lose her job? Should she be reprimanded or suspended? Is her apology enough punishment?

It makes me think of my time in the military, which is obviously quite a different ballgame.

For any of you who ever conducted airborne operations at Fort Bragg, NC, you are familiar with the different drop zones (DZ) there. One of the more unique drop zones is St. Mere Eglise. It is the only one of the DZs that are bordered by civilian property. Plank Road runs east to west on the south side of the zone. On the other side of Plank Road are civilian housing developments. On the west end of St. Mere Eglise is a swampy area where two creeks converge.

One night in 1999, we were conducting a tactical airborne operation at St. Mere Eglise. This means full gear, to include weapons and ruck sacks. The C-130 aircraft were traveling east across the DZ. With prevailing winds and directions of travel, the light went green just to the west of the DZ, right over the swamp.

The jump went according to plans, until…

We were about two hours out from the last paratrooper exiting an aircraft. The DZ is roughly two miles long and ¾ of a mile across. So, it is not unusual for it take an hour or two for everyone to return to the assembly area for chute turn in.

This particular evening, we sent a few vehicles out to start looking for the stragglers. We got to the far west end of the DZ and we saw flashlights. Pulling up to see what was going on, we discovered several paratroopers searching through the trees and brush. They were soaking wet.

Upon making contact, we found out that one of them members of that stick (the line of paratroopers that exit the aircraft on each pass) lost his M16A2 rifle. The prop blast, accompanied by a loosely fitted weapon sling, contributed to the weapon falling.

We immediately notified range control and the military police. They shut the drop zone down. We were on lockdown. No one could leave.

We brought in flood lights, we brought everyone over from the assembly area and spread out at double-arm interval and started searching for that rifle. The search started in full at approximately 2100. It was finally recovered around 0400 the next morning, found in about 1 foot of water at the edge of the swamp formed by the convergence of Puppy and McDuffie creeks. 

Why was it such a big deal to recover that one weapon? It is because weapons security and accountability are a very big deal.

The reality is this, the M16A2 could fire a single shot (semi-automatic) or a 3-round burst. Only the military could legally maintain that type of weaponry.

If that rifle had landed on the opposite side of the road, it could have wound up in the hands of a civilian who would call the military police, and have it returned to the base. But it could have also been found by someone who planned to do evil with it.

Weapons security is no doubt of equal importance for our law enforcement communities.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.