Court papers reveal more detail about Halloween night gang shooting

Police check for evidence at the scene of a shooting on Fairview Street on Halloween. Photo: David Yee

The documented gang member charged with shooting a rival gang associate in the leg in Berkeley on Halloween went by the street name “Savage,” according to court papers reviewed by Berkeleyside.

The Halloween shooting took place just before 8 p.m. in the 1500 block of Fairview Street. Police who responded to the scene found the victim about mid-block on Fairview, between Sacramento and California streets. He had a graze wound to his right calf, along with a “through and through” gunshot wound to his left knee.

Police identified the victim in court papers as a known associate of the Border Brother Sureño (Southerner) gang. The 25-year-old was taken to Alta Bates hospital for treatment, and later was released, police said.

A woman who was interviewed about the Halloween night shooting told police she had been standing in a driveway on Fairview when she heard “bullets fly by her side as she retreated” toward a nearby apartment.

Detectives later learned through their investigation that the alleged shooter in the case went by the name “Savage,” according to court papers.

Investigators knew, from prior contacts with Berkeley resident Jose Paz-Leja, that “Savage” was his nickname, or street name. Police described Paz-Leja as a documented member of the West Side Berkeley Norteño (Northerner) gang, which is a rival of the Southerner gang. According to police, Paz-Leja, 26, has “numerous tattoos that show his association with [the] West Side Berkeley Gang.”

In early November, police sought and received an arrest warrant for Paz-Leja, then searched his home in the 1500 block of Alcatraz Avenue on Nov. 9.

“During the search … Detectives recovered numerous documents showing Paz-Leja’s association with the West Side Berkeley street gang. Detectives also recovered evidence that shows Paz-Leja goes by the moniker Savage,” police wrote in court papers.

Police were able to reach Paz-Leja by telephone, and directed him to turn himself in. Ten days later, Paz-Leja did so in the lobby of Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. The next day, Berkeley investigators interviewed Paz-Leja about the events of Halloween night.

“Paz-Leja never proclaimed his innocence despite being asked on numerous occasions about his involvement in the shooting,” wrote Detective Andres Bejarano in court papers. “Paz-Leja invoked his right to an attorney shortly after.”

Police noted in court papers that Paz-Leja was out on bail for several open cases at the time of the shooting. They included a gun possession and brandishing case from April and a felony hit-and-run case from 2016.

On Nov. 21, the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Paz-Leja with one felony: assault with a firearm. The charge includes three special allegations: great bodily injury, the use of a firearm and committing an offense while on bail. Those allegations could increase Paz-Leja’s sentence if he is convicted.

The assault charge has also been classified as a violent or serious felony, which requires any sentence in the case to be carried out in state prison rather than county jail.

Paz-Leja remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail on $455,000 bail in connection with all of his pending cases. He is scheduled to enter a plea Dec. 18 at the René C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, according to court records online.

Paz-Leja has a painting, dry wall and demolition business in Berkeley with his father, according to information online.

Gun activity has increased in Berkeley this fall

There has been an uptick in gun-related activity in Berkeley in recent months.

Two weeks after the Halloween shooting, Nov. 14, a young man was shot in the leg while walking his dog in the same neighborhood as the Paz-Leja incident. Police said afterward it was “unclear” if the crimes were related. No arrests have been announced in the Nov. 14 case.

On Nov. 17, shots were fired in southwest Berkeley and a stray bullet entered a home in the 1200 block of Carrison Street. No injuries were reported.

About a week later, police made an arrest after gunfire Nov. 25 at 62nd and Adeline streets. No injuries were reported in that case either.

Last week, Dec. 5, a UC Berkeley PhD student was shot during a robbery in North Berkeley. No arrests have been reported in that case. Police have asked anyone with information to call the Berkeley Police Robbery Detail at 510-981-5741.

A map of 2017 shootings appears below: Yellow markers indicate property damage or casings found only, and red markers indicate that someone was injured. The single orange marker shows a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The circumstances at the pea-green marker have not been determined. Click each marker for additional information and links to past coverage.