Police responded to a shooting at San Pablo Park in August that left three people wounded. Photo: Citizen reporter

Cellphone records, ammunition and a Chevrolet Impala helped police link an Oakland felon to two gang-related shootings at Berkeley’s San Pablo Park, according to court papers obtained by Berkeleyside this week from Alameda County Superior Court.

Berkeley police detectives arrested 22-year-old Shane Downs in late February as part of an investigation into the Aug. 18, 2018, shooting at San Pablo Park that wounded three people, according to court papers. Police also wrote that, during a warrant search when they arrested Downs, officers found “the same brand and caliber rifle rounds” at his home as those used in a shooting at the park in late January.

The intended target in the August 2018 shooting was critically wounded, police wrote. They identified that man as a Berkeley 5 Finga Mafia/L’s gang member. Two innocent bystanders also were struck by gunfire. The shooting took place on a busy Saturday in a park full of community members, many of whom were celebrating birthday parties. The shooting prompted significant community outcry, public meetings and pledges by officials to install surveillance cameras at the park.

Police wrote that, just before that shooting, occupants in a white four-door vehicle “with tinted windows and ‘Dailey’ paper plates stopped in the middle of the street in front of San Pablo Park” and opened fire, striking three people. “Surveillance video of the suspect vehicle revealed that it was a white 2017 four-door Chevy Impala with dark tinted windows.”

A break in the case came in November, police wrote, when a man they described as an Oakland gang member, Antoine Johnson, was arrested with a pistol that ballistics testing later matched to a casing from the August shooting. Police allege that Johnson is a North Side Oakland (NSO) “Freezem gang member.” Police wrote that Downs is also a member of that gang.

According to court papers, investigators determined that Downs owns a Chevy Impala matching the one from the park shooting. Police tracked the Impala to Downs’ home in North Oakland and saw that it had a license plate frame with an “F.H. Dailey” emblem, according to court papers. (Dailey is a car dealership in San Leandro.)

Police also wrote that a Chevrolet Impala registered to Downs’ mother, with Dailey paper plates concealing the license plate, was picked up by authorities after a burglary in San Mateo. It had Downs’ fingerprints inside, police wrote. Investigators went on to suggest that “Downs is concealing his vehicle’s actual license plates with ‘Dailey’ paper plates when he is committing crimes, such as the shooting and the burglary.”

Police obtained phone records that placed Downs’ cellphone “near San Pablo Park before and just after the shooting,” they wrote.

On Feb. 27, police executed a search warrant at Downs’ North Oakland home: “In a back room, a box of Winchester 223 ammunition was located,” police wrote. “These are the same brand and caliber rifle rounds used in a shooting at San Pablo Park on 01/27/19 in which another south Berkeley Five Finga Mafia/L’s gang associate was targeted.”

Police interviewed Downs after the arrest and “he stated that he NEVER comes to Berkeley and that he does not know anyone from Berkeley,” according to court papers. “When Downs was asked about his ownership of his white Chevy Impala, he immediately asked for a lawyer.”

BPD also noted that, as a convicted felon, Downs cannot legally possess ammunition.

According to court records, Downs was only 17 in 2014 when he was convicted of robbery in Alameda County Superior Court. He was charged as an adult in that case and sentenced to four years in prison.

On March 1, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Downs with one felony count of possession of ammunition by a prohibited person.

He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on $140,000 bail, according to court records online. But the records also show that Downs, whose listed occupation is “student,” is ineligible for release due to the parole violation.

Downs is scheduled to enter a plea in the case Monday at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online.

Surveillance cameras still in flux

The August shooting in San Pablo Park prompted the Berkeley City Council to vote in October to install cameras at the park in the interest of public safety. As of Friday, however, that still hadn’t happened.

Community members have repeatedly turned up at council meetings since August to ask officials to take action to make the city safer. In January, after police investigated gunfire at the park, safety concerns arose again.

In mid-February, Mayor Jesse Arreguín sent a status update by email to constituents interested in the camera issue, writing that he had “recently received confirmation that the installation of the cameras at San Pablo Park will take place on February 19th.”

Arreguín asked constituents to “Rest assured that improvement to safety to San Pablo Park continues to be a priority, and I will continue pushing our City Administration for further action.”

On Feb. 25, however, a frustrated constituent wrote to Berkeleyside with another update: “The 19th came and went, and many, many neighbors have searched for cameras in the park and have seen nothing.”

The city did not respond Thursday to an inquiry from Berkeleyside as to the status of the cameras. Friday, city offices were closed. Arreguín did not reply to an inquiry from Berkeleyside on Friday either.

But, in an email blast Friday to her constituents, Councilwoman Kate Harrison happened to address the issue, writing that “cameras should be installed by the end of March.”

“Following the tragic shooting at San Pablo Park in August, the City Council voted to install security cameras at the Frances Albrier Community Center to deter any such acts from occurring again,” Harrison wrote. “However, all new surveillance infrastructure requires a careful balancing of safety needs and civil liberties.”

She continued: “Many constituents have expressed concerns that summer is coming and yet the cameras have still not been installed. City staff is working with the surveillance policy our office passed last year, determining best placement for the camera and best practices for the footage acquired. I am told that this process is wrapping up and that cameras should be installed by the end of March. Thank you to everyone who played a role in making San Pablo Park a safe place for everyone!”

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 of the Year...