Berkeley police car stop leads to gun charges

Berkeley police recovered this pistol Thursday night in West Berkeley. Photo: BPD

The smell of burnt marijuana led to a vehicle search by police Thursday in West Berkeley that turned up a pistol, gloves and a commonly used burglary tool, authorities report.

Thursday shortly before 9 p.m., a pair of Berkeley officers made a stop at Acton and Ward streets for a vehicle code offense, police said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

When the officers spoke to the vehicle’s occupants, “they could smell the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from the car.” That smell gave officers probable cause, or legal authority, to search the vehicle. That’s because, while it’s legal in the state to possess marijuana, drivers still aren’t allowed to be under the influence of it.

During the search, police said they found a pistol and ammunition, as well as marijuana in a backpack belonging to passenger Samuel Howard, 21, of Oakland. Police also found “gloves and an auto glass window punch (commonly used to burglarize cars) in the area where Howard was sitting,” according to the BPD release.


Police arrested Howard on suspicion of numerous weapons-related offenses, as well as possession of burglary tools. He was taken to Berkeley Jail.

The driver, a 21-year-old Antioch woman, was detained initially but later released.

According to Alameda County court records online, Howard was charged Friday in connection with two felonies related to carrying a concealed, unregistered firearm and ammunition. He is no longer in custody.

Howard’s next court date was not available online due to ongoing technical problems with the Alameda County court records system.