A man charged with the murder of a 19-year-old on a South Berkeley street in 2016 is back in custody this week after reportedly violating the terms of his bail.
On Tuesday, Berkeley police detectives arrested 27-year-old Will Watson in Lake County, north of Santa Rosa, and found him with two handguns, a silencer and multiple extended magazines for holding extra ammunition, authorities report.
Watson, then 24, was arrested and charged with murder in early 2017 after the Sept. 22, 2016, killing of 19-year-old Gregory Ignacio Jr. at Harper and Fairview streets in South Berkeley. Watson, who grew up in San Francisco then moved to Mill Valley, quickly posted a bond for $1 million in bail and has been out of custody ever since. Authorities said Watson did not know Ignacio, but had been offended on behalf of a mutual acquaintance and took matters into his own hands.
In October 2017, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Watson would have to stand trial in the case. But those proceedings have been repeatedly delayed. The trial was first set to happen in October 2018, then April 2019 and, most recently, in May of this year, according to court records. At the time of the October 2017 hearing, the judge said Watson could remain out of custody but ordered him to wear an ankle monitor to track his location.
Earlier this month, according to a statement released Friday by the Berkeley Police Department in response to a Berkeleyside inquiry, detectives learned Watson had left the area “and was possibly in possession of firearms” in Loch Lomond, an unincorporated community in Lake County about an hour north of Calistoga.
On Tuesday, with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office tactical team, BPD served a search warrant at the home where Watson was staying, BPD said.
During the search, BPD said, detectives “found two handguns (one with a silencer attached) as well as multiple extended magazines” inside that residence.
“According to the terms of his bail, Watson was not to leave the Bay Area,” BPD said. He was also arrested on suspicion of committing a felony while out on bail.
Now, Watson is ineligible for bail, BPD said. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. The gun case will be presented to the Lake County district attorney’s office for charging consideration, BPD said.
The murder case
Murder victim Gregory Ignacio Jr. grew up in Hayward but also spent time in South Berkeley near Fairview Street and later attended Berkeley Technology Academy. Shortly before his death, he had gotten a job in construction in San Francisco. Friends told Berkeleyside he was someone they could always count on and that he was not involved in gangs.
Moments before he was killed, according to evidence presented in court, Ignacio had been outside with friends at Harper and Fairview when Watson walked up to him, pulled a silver handgun from his waistband and shot him. The men did not know each other.
According to the prosecution, Ignacio had had several negative interactions with another young man he had known in Berkeley since childhood. That man then complained to Watson about him. Unbidden, according to evidence presented in court, Watson shot Ignacio over the perceived disrespect to their mutual acquaintance.
During the hearing to determine whether the case against Watson would proceed to trial, witnesses said they recognized him, in part, by his distinctive pointy nose and the sound of his voice when, during a jailhouse line-up, he was directed to speak the words that preceded the fatal shooting.
At the conclusion of the 2017 hearing, Watson’s attorney, Geoffrey Rotwein, said his client was innocent.
“If the case is pursued to trial, he’ll be acquitted,” Rotwein told Berkeleyside.
According to court records, Watson is scheduled for a readiness hearing July 23 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.