A kidnapping suspect sat in a cell for hours at San Francisco police headquarters before getting shuttled to jail and nearly making his way through security before officials say they found he was carrying a loaded weapon.
Though the gun was spotted in Roy Nadeau’s waistband on July 26 without anyone getting hurt, at least four SFPD officers failed to notice it.
The incident highlights an ongoing pattern of law enforcement mishandling the weapons of both officers and suspects—an issue that has led to numerous close calls over the years and, in one high-profile case, cost a woman her life.
What happened with Nadeau also exacerbates the already fraught relationship between SFPD, which arrested the suspect, and the Sheriff’s Department, which processed him into jail.
The two agencies have long sparred over issues such as whether deputies should patrol the streets or take over security at the San Francisco International Airport. Amid staffing issues at the jail and a Covid surge that jams up the entire criminal justice system, they’ve also been locking horns over the time it takes deputies to book the people SFPD arrests.
San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association President Ken Lomba slammed SFPD for putting “lives in danger” by letting the gun go undetected.
“This is another example of mediocre and careless police work,” Lomba inveighed. “Our deputy sheriffs did an outstanding job finding the gun.”
SFPD Officer Drew Jackson arrested 26-year-old Nadeau at 2:21 a.m. on July 26 for a litany of alleged offenses, including kidnapping and possession of burglary tools, and brought him to a holding cell at Southern Station, which is housed in the same building at SFPD’s headquarters.
Three other SFPD officers—Sgt. Robert Glenn and officers Anthony Watson and Tariq Shaheed—were at the scene of arrest, according to the police report, and also failed to spot the weapon.
Nadeau sat in the Southern Station cell for five or six hours with the loaded weapon tucked in his pants, according to multiple law enforcement sources. Watson and Shaheed then put a still-armed Nadeau in a vehicle and relocated him to the jail on Seventh Street before 8:30 a.m, according to the police report.
Protocol requires officers to search a suspect upon arrest and then pat search them again when they arrive at jail, where they get shuffled through a security line and waved over with a metal detector wand before getting handed off to deputies.
In Nadeau’s case, it appears none of those steps were taken.
The weapon was only found when a jail deputy named Ryan Arnaldo put the suspect through a body scanner. Arnaldo then retrieved the gun and handed it over to one of the SFPD officers who brought the suspect to jail.
A police spokesperson confirmed some details about what happened, however, and offered assurances that the situation is under review.
“Upon being notified of the discovery of the firearm by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, and because of the seriousness of the incident,” SFPD Sgt. Adam Lobsinger said, “an immediate investigation was initiated by the San Francisco police Internal Affairs Division.”
An internal Sheriff’s Department memo obtained by The Standard underscores the gravity of the oversight.
“These incidents show how important thorough arrest searches are,” the document states alongside an image of the X-ray that ultimately revealed the weapon. “The firearm can be used against sworn and professional staff and poses a greater imminent threat than most contraband.”
Publicly, the Sheriff’s Department struck a more conciliatory tone about the potentially fatal incident, praising deputies for finding the weapon that went undetected in a holding cell and police vehicle from about 2:20 to 8:30 in the morning.
“Fortunately, we were able to secure a firearm from an arrested individual before it presented a danger to anyone,” Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Tara Moriarty said. “Searches by our SFSO deputies are thorough and aided by technologies that may not be available to other agencies when out in the field.”
Lapses in Oversight
Similar lapses have cropped up throughout the U.S.
An incident in New Mexico in 2018 resulted in a four-hour standoff. In 2019, deputies found a gun on an already booked inmate, which they seized before anyone was hurt.
Law enforcement failures to secure service weapons have led to multiple fatalities in San Francisco in the past several years.
In 2015, a handgun stolen from a Bureau of Land Management agent’s car led to the highly publicized killing of Kate Steinle on a pier along The Embarcadero. And in 2017, a police officer’s unsecured gun was stolen and used in the killing of Abel Esquivel in the Mission.