Fifteen months after the fatal shooting of a young, pregnant woman from Berkeley, authorities have announced murder charges in the case.
On Oct. 21, 2020, 19-year-old Sereinat’e Henderson was driving with her 10-month-old son, 14-year-old brother and their mother when someone unleashed a hail of bullets on their black Honda Accord as they drove past Malcolm X Elementary School in South Berkeley. Sereinat’e (pronounced “serenity”), who was two months pregnant at the time, had been shot in the head and died at the hospital. One officer later said that at least 17 shots had been fired in just 20 seconds.
The brutal, unusual circumstances of the crime sent shockwaves through the community.
On Wednesday, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged 21-year-old Charles Jones with Henderson’s murder, according to court papers. Jones also was charged with attempted murder, and related crimes, in connection with four other people with Henderson at the time of the shooting. When the new case was filed, Jones was already in custody at Santa Rita Jail — where he has been since November 2020 — in connection with a different Berkeley shooting that year.
No motive in the case has been released. According to court papers, Jones opened fire on Henderson and her family just before 7 p.m. at Prince and Ellis streets then fled the scene in a getaway car. Police said “forensic evidence recovered at the scene” helped lead them to Jones.
Throughout their investigation, according to court records, “Detectives obtained numerous search warrants for Charles Jones’ electronics, phone records, and numerous social media accounts. This helped Detectives locate evidence further linking Jones” to the case.
On Jan. 7, BPD got an arrest warrant for Jones in the murder case then secured a court order to interview him about Henderson’s killing. That interview took place Monday at the Berkeley Police Department, according to court papers.
“When confronted with forensic evidence recovered from the scene, Jones requested Detectives speak to his attorney,” court records show. Jones has now been charged with 12 separate felony counts in connection with the shooting. In addition to murder, Jones was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a semiautomatic firearm, as well as possession of a firearm by a felon, and other criminal enhancements that could result in a more serious sentence.
Police have identified Jones in court papers as a member of the Babas gang and a “person of interest” in gang-related shootings in Berkeley dating back to 2018.
In their early days, according to BPD, “Babas” gang members committed crimes such as prowling, trespassing and burglary, but later moved on to robbery and assault, weapons violations and attempted murder. In 2017, police estimated that the gang — which BPD has described as the “new generation” of West Berkeley’s notorious Waterfront gang — had 20 members ranging in age from their late teens to early 20s.
Berkeleyside first wrote about Jones in mid-2019, not long after he had turned 18, when authorities charged him with possession of an Uzi machine gun.
In records related to that arrest, BPD said they had also tied Jones to a gang-related shooting on Milvia Street in 2018 that seriously wounded two young men. Authorities said Jones’ DNA was also found on a gun from a gang-related freeway shooting that same year on I-580. He was only 17 when those incidents took place, however, and he was not charged in either case.
As part of a plea deal in the Uzi case, Jones ultimately was convicted of the sole felony count of possession of a machine gun, according to court papers. He was released from custody in October 2019, after several months in jail, and placed on felony probation through October 2022.
According to BPD, Jones was also involved in a shooting June 24, 2020, shortly before 8 p.m. where three people got out of a vehicle at Oregon and California streets and shot at someone, repeatedly striking an apartment building nearby and also hitting a vehicle.
Five months later, on Nov. 24, 2020, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested Jones in San Francisco in connection with the Oregon Street shooting, according to court papers.
When Jones was arrested in 2020, according to court documents, he was carrying an AR pistol, more than $400 cash, a digital scale and about “50 bindles of suspected crack cocaine,” items police described as “consistent with the sales of narcotics.”
Since his arrest, Jones has been in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $655,000. He was charged with seven felonies related to the Oregon Street shooting, which was captured on security footage, according to court papers. That case is ongoing.
Jones is now ineligible for bail due to the murder charge. He remains at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin, according to court records.
Police said his city of residence was not available because he declined to provide that information to BPD.
“The tragic loss of Sereinat’e caused emotional pain and suffering to her family, loved ones and the entire Berkeley community,” BPD said in a statement Wednesday. “The Berkeley Police Department shares in the senseless loss of this young mother to gun violence and will continue to work to reduce and prevent gun crimes that threaten the safety of our community.”