Berkeleyside regularly reports on notable Berkeley crimes, including those that involve violence or weapons, or that readers have asked about. Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Send tips to Berkeleyside with your public safety questions.
FELONY CHARGES AFTER PACKAGE THEFTS An Oakland woman has been charged with three counts of felony burglary following package thefts at two Berkeley apartment buildings in recent months.
Police arrested Leah Bowen, 36, shortly after 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 21 inside 2020 Kittredge St., an apartment building next to the downtown Berkeley library. The apartment’s security monitoring company had alerted police to a burglar inside the mailroom.
When officers arrived, they found Bowen across the street in her white BMW, BPD said. There were several open packages in the backseat. According to BPD, police found nine Amazon packages — addressed to other people — that had been taken from 2020 Kittredge, as well as a package from 2025 Durant Ave.
Police said they recognized Bowen and her BMW from three burglaries at 2020 Kittredge. On Sept. 23, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Bowen with felony burglaries on Aug. 10, Aug. 25 and Sept. 21. She has entered not-guilty pleas to all three charges. Bowen is no longer in custody, according to court records online. She is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Oct. 20 at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
99 CENTS STORE SHOOTING ARREST Police have arrested a Berkeley man in connection with gunfire outside the 99 Cents Only store in early September. On Sept. 6 just after 1:20 p.m., police responded to the off-street parking lot at 1941 San Pablo Ave. on a report of gunfire: “Officers learned that a suspect fired a handgun in the air several times and drove off in a vehicle,” BPD said Friday in a prepared statement.
Detectives investigated the case and ultimately identified 35-year-old Donzel Smith of Berkeley as the shooter, BPD said. This week, detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and a search of his home. During the search, BPD said, detectives found methamphetamine, “the handgun used in the shooting” and a loaded “ghost gun” described as a “short barrel AR-style assault pistol” without a serial number.
Smith was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of shooting a handgun in a negligent manner, possession of an assault weapon and possession of a controlled substance, BPD said. According to online booking records, Smith was released on “temporary emergency bail,” a zero-bail program adopted by the courts last year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Charges have not been filed in the case; the district attorney’s office generally takes weeks or months to make charging decisions when an individual is no longer in custody.
Smith, who works for AC Transit, also has an active felony case in Alameda County from 2020 related to possession of an unregistered loaded firearm and drug sales, according to court records online.
Berkeley has had at least 36 shootings this year, six of which left people wounded.
GHOST GUN ARREST AFTER DUI STOP Early Sunday morning, an officer stopped a driver who was speeding on University Avenue shortly after 1:30 a.m., “swerving in and out of lanes without regard for other vehicles or pedestrians in the area,” BPD said. The officer stopped the driver, identified as 28-year-old Oakland resident Darius Harris, and determined he may have been drinking.
“When the driver stepped out of the vehicle for a sobriety check, the officer found a loaded non-serialized handgun (AKA Ghost gun) concealed in the driver’s waistband,” BPD said. Police administered field sobriety tests, then arrested Harris on suspicion of driving under the influence and carrying a loaded, concealed firearm. Harris is no longer in custody and charges have not yet been filed, according to court records online.
Harris has a 2018 conviction in Alameda County for reckless driving involving alcohol, according to court records online. He served one day in jail and was placed on two years of probation, which ended last year.
Police and city officials have been raising the alarm about “ghost guns” in recent years as they have proliferated in the city.
“Guns in our neighborhoods are already a challenge for our community,” BPD said earlier this year. “The addition of ‘ghost guns’ — guns that can be 3D printed at home by anyone without a background check or regulation on its use is alarming.”
On Oct. 12, Councilmember Terry Taplin — along with co-sponsors Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn and Lori Droste — is bringing forward a proposal for new law in Berkeley that would largely prohibit ghost guns in the city.
FELON CHARGED WITH PACKAGE THEFT SERIES A repeat offender has been charged with four separate package theft burglaries in Berkeley dating back to December 2020, according to court records reviewed by Berkeleyside and police. Lenny Cabrera, a 39-year-old electrician from Concord, is being held on $255,000 bail in connection with a spate of felony charges.
Back in December 2020, police say Cabrera was caught on surveillance footage committing a burglary in the Southside neighbourhood in a secured apartment building at 2124 Bancroft Way. Later that month, he and another person entered a secured lobby at 2616 Telegraph Ave. and stole more packages, according to police.
On May 1, surveillance footage showed Cabrera and two other people again stealing mail or packages from 2124 Bancroft Way, police said. He was stopped by police in Lafeyette, according to BPD, and found in possession of mail from the building. When police showed him footage from the burglary, he identified himself in it, BPD said.
On May 31, Cabrera and a woman went into a secured apartment building at 2491 Ellsworth St. and took mail, police said. Cabrera identified himself in security footage from the burglary that clearly showed his distinctive neck tattoo, according to BPD.
In August, according to BPD, Cabrera used a USPS key to enter an apartment building at 1725 Shattuck Ave. but ultimately left without taking anything. He and his Cadillac Coupe were visible in surveillance footage, BPD said.
On Sept. 14, a resident in the 1500 block of Josephine Street confronted Cabrera under a car trying to steal a catalytic converter, according to BPD. He left before police arrived, but officers found his wallet under the car, BPD said. During a Mirandized statement, he denied any involvement in the crime and said his wallet had been stolen that day, police said.
Police arrested Cabrera on Sept. 20. On Sept. 21, the DA’s office charged him with felony burglaries on Dec. 11 and Dec. 23, 2020, and May 1 and May 31 of this year. According to court records, Cabrera has a long list of convictions related to gun possession, identity theft, drug sales, vehicle theft and more. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Oct. 12 at Wiley Manuel Courthouse.
UC BERKELEY BURGLARY SERIES: CHARGES FILED A man and woman have been charged with four burglaries at UC Berkeley in September — at Zellerbach Hall, the Cesar Chavez Building and Wheeler Hall — after catching them in the act at Zellerbach when they went back a second time, authorities report.
On Sept. 22, the University of California Police Department got a report about a burglary the prior night in the Cesar Chavez Building on campus: “Valuables were stolen from multiple rooms,” police said.
On Sept. 26 at 5:15 p.m., UCPD responded to Zellerbach on a burglary report and “discovered multiple rooms had been ransacked with multiple items taken.”
The next day at 6:15 a.m., university staff at Wheeler Hall called 911 after finding ransacked rooms there, UCPD said. While police were investigating that report, they got a call from Zellerbach where another burglary had been discovered. Staff told police the culprits might still be in the building.
UCPD responded and arrested Davien Wheaton, 30, of San Francisco and 27-year-old Berkeley resident Bianca Foreman.
“During a subsequent investigation, officers discovered the suspects were in possession of stolen lighting and audio visual equipment, access cards and other items from the Zellerbach Hall and Wheeler Hall burglaries,” UCPD said. “Thanks to the vigilance of university staff and diligent investigation by the officers, a significant amount of the stolen property was recovered at the scene and later from the suspect vehicle, which officers located on a nearby street.”
UCPD asks anyone with information about these cases to call UCPD at 510-642-6760
According to court records, Wheaton has prior felony convictions for burglary, ID theft and theft from an elder or dependent adult, as well as one strike. Foreman was placed on probation in July for a felony ID theft case.
Both Wheaton and Foreman have been released on pretrial supervision and are scheduled to enter pleas in the case Oct. 22 at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
RECENT CRIME STATS As of the week of Sept. 19, according to preliminary calls for service numbers from BPD, there have been 312 Part 1 violent crimes* reported in Berkeley this year: 194 robberies, 36 rapes and 82 aggravated assaults. About the same number of violent crime calls for service had been reported as of this time last year, but aggravated assaults, which include gunfire, are up 11% and robbery reports are slightly up.
On the property crime side, there have been nearly 3,000 calls for service this year: 1,636 thefts, 796 auto thefts, 478 burglaries and 30 arson reports. As of this time last year, there had been about 2,700. Of the burglary calls for service this year, 311 were home burglaries and 167 were commercial. Of the theft calls for service, 431 were grand thefts, 868 were petty thefts and 337 were auto burglaries.
* These numbers are preliminary calls for service and may change as a result of investigations.
Learn about crime reports in your neighborhood on CrimeMapping.com. The city of Berkeley also posts crime reports for the last six months on its website. The department also posts 30 days of arrest data online.