Gang-related graffiti has been a common sight near Strawberry Creek Park, particularly on the Berkeley Youth Alternatives building, as shown here in 2014. Local residents have been working together to “reclaim the park from gangs” in the past year, according to a city parks commissioner. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Gang-related graffiti has been a common sight near Strawberry Creek Park, particularly on the Berkeley Youth Alternatives building, as shown here in 2014. Local residents have been working together to “reclaim the park from gangs” in the past year, according to a city parks commissioner. Photo: Emilie Raguso

[Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication to include a comment from Berkeley rap musician Hotboi Weez.]

Police arrested two men on suspicion of firearm-related violations during a music video shoot on Bonar Street in West Berkeley over the weekend.

At about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, police received several calls about a group of 10 who were “posing around a vehicle with guns” in the 2200 block of Bonar Street, police said.

Upon arrival, officers discovered the group was filming a music video,” said Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman. “During the detention, officers discovered two firearms and a replica firearm with an altered orange tip. Additional investigation into the group revealed an additional handgun as well as a quantity of cocaine, alprazolam, marijuana, and cash.”

Police confiscated the footage and camera equipment being used to film the video, according to scanner reports.

Berkeley Police Officer Stephanie Polizziani said a community member had called in to report that “Hotboi Weez” was “filming another video.” Last year, local residents said they were concerned about an earlier video posted by the local rap musician that was shot in part on Bonar Street which they said promotes gang activity, drug use and violence.

The corner of Bonar Street and Allston Way in Berkeley, as seen in last year’s “Hot Boi Weez Mob Nigga” video.
” video.

Polizziani credited the reports from local residents with helping lead to the arrests due to neighborhood awareness about public safety issues.

“Two people went to jail out of the group,” she said, “definitely because the community’s informed and saw who it was, saw the weapons come out and called it in as a safety precaution.”

Berkeley rap musician Hotboi Weez, reached by phone after publication Thursday, said he hopes to be able to sit down with neighbors and improve communication when circumstances arise that raise tension, whether it’s loud gatherings, graffiti or future video shoots.

“The community needs to get more together, instead of being more separate,” he said. “We should all be on the same page. We all live in Berkeley: We should be able to communicate with each other.”

Weez said he hopes in the future neighbors might raise issues directly with him rather than involving police. He said he will listen to concerns and work to be responsive. He said he also understood why people might not have been comfortable addressing the group directly Saturday because of the presence of the weapons.

Weez said, in the future, he hopes to return to Bonar to film but does not plan to involve guns because of the negative attention they bring.

He said he’s happy to field questions from neighbors if he’s filming in the area, and invites direct communication.

“We’re not here to scare anybody,” he said. “Treat us like some regular people.”

He said he’s also open to trying to involve his friends in helping clean up graffiti in the neighborhood, and hopes to be able to build mutual respect so neighbors can coexist in the area better in the future.

Jim McGrath credited neighbors at a meeting about Ohlone Park in October with reclaiming Strawberry Creek Park from gangs. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Polizziani said local residents have been working together recently to address another issue in nearby Strawberry Creek Park: a homeless encampment with numerous associated bicycles which some believe is a chop shop.

“They’re very aware of what’s going on in their park,” she said, of local neighbors. “They are very knowledgeable.”

Police have responded to numerous shootings around Bonar Street in recent years, and there have been recurring reports of gang-related graffiti in the area.

At a recent community meeting focused on the growing homeless population at Ohlone Park, local resident and city parks commissioner Jim McGrath said more than 100 neighbors around Strawberry Creek Park have come together over the past year or so to take back that park from gang activity by getting organized about being in the park and actively calling police to report crime.

He said residents have been working together to focus on problematic behavior, and have been calling police regularly to report criminal activities. The city also installed lighting in the park earlier this year to improve safety, along with taking a number of other measures.

The neighborhood group, Friends of Strawberry Creek Park, has taken various steps to clean up the area and make it safer for everyone. One member, who asked not to be named for safety reasons, said she and others were inspired by last year’s video to take a stand against guns in the park. Since then, neighbors have worked with the city to have park signs installed, get more regular maintenance, improve the lighting and work quickly to remove graffiti.

The city also worked with a nearby property owner to remove a wall that had been attractive to vandals with spraypaint. Neighbors and the city have been working together on “all-crew” days with the parks department to weed and clean up other issues in the park.

“We’ve seen big progress,” she said, in terms of safety, cleanliness, lighting and maintenance in the park. She noted, however, that the Berkeley Youth Alternatives building continues to draw graffiti, and that the agency doesn’t work as quickly as the city does to have it removed.

The confiscated weapons, with the one in the middle being an imitation handgun. Photo: BPD
A third handgun confiscated later during the video shoot. Photo: BPD

Saturday, police arrested Jerard Jefferies Jr., 26, of Fremont, on suspicion of altering an imitation firearm. They arrested Edyson Sotelo, 22, of Hayward on suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm, being a convicted person in possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a controlled substance while armed with a loaded firearm, possession of narcotics for sale and probation violation.

Jefferies is no longer in custody, after posting $90,000 bail, but was scheduled for an attorney and plea hearing Thursday, Nov. 12.

According to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s department, Sotelo remains in custody with a bail of $5,000 and was also scheduled for an attorney and plea hearing Thursday morning.

Gang violence, drug use, graffiti spark renewed push to clean up West Berkeley park (04.18.14)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...