Alleged Berkeley gang member set to enter plea in gun case

Harmon and Sacramento. Image: Google Maps

A gang member arrested last week in South Berkeley after he brandished a stolen gun at a woman, according to police, is set to enter a plea in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday.

Jose Paz-Leja, 26, of Berkeley was arrested last week Monday. Police got a call from a woman who said a man dressed in a red shirt had waved a gun at her near Harmon and Sacramento streets sometime before 9:30 p.m.

According to court papers, an officer heard the broadcast over the radio and saw Paz-Leja driving. He ordered Paz-Leja out of the vehicle and told him to lay on the ground on his back. After police handcuffed him, they found a loaded black handgun with an extended 30-round magazine underneath him, according to court papers.

Paz-Leja, who is a felon, is prohibited from possessing guns or ammunition, according to court papers. He was also driving on a suspended license at the time of his arrest.


Police arrested him last year in Berkeley after a felony DUI hit-and-run. A tipster told Berkeleyside the driver “ran a stop sign, hit a woman going through the intersection, careened into an oncoming truck, hit at least two parked cars, then did the runner.” No significant injuries were reported, however. Police said in court papers Paz-Leja also threatened to kill a witness to the crash that night. His license was already suspended at that time.

Paz-Leja has been charged with seven felonies in relation to last week’s arrest, all of which relate to the gun: three counts of brandishing (which means to “draw and exhibit a loaded firearm in a rude, angry, and threatening manner”); possession of a firearm by a felon; carrying a loaded firearm; carrying a concealed firearm; and having a large-capacity magazine.

Though Paz-Leja was not charged with a felony related to gang activity, he faces a special allegation, tied to the loaded firearm charge, that he is “an active participant in a street gang.” Another special allegation asserts that the gun he brandished was stolen. Still another notes he was out on bail at the time of his arrest. Special allegations can lead to stricter sentencing in the case of a guilty verdict.

According to court papers, Paz-Leja has one prior conviction, from June 2012, related to felony forgery. He was sentenced to probation in that case.

According to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office, Paz-Leja is scheduled for a plea hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.

According to records online, he has a painting, dry wall and demolition business in Berkeley with his father.