State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata thought it was a panhandler knocking at his car window Saturday afternoon in Oakland -- until he saw the gun.
The masked man was pointing the weapon and said through the glass, "Get out of the car," Perata told Oakland police minutes later.
The senator scrambled out of his maroon 2006 Dodge Charger, leaving behind two cellphones in his rush to comply.
The carjacker hopped in and drove off, following an accomplice in a 2000 gold Camaro, also stolen, police said.
Perata was unharmed.
"Once the adrenaline stops, the legs wobble," Perata (D-Oakland) said in an interview a few hours after the incident. "I could tell I was shaken up, because the words were coming out backward . . . I was lucky."
Police say there was no indication that the assailants recognized Perata, a native of the East Bay, or noticed his car's exempt license plate, which hinted that the car belonged to a state official.
Rather, police think it was the 22-inch chrome rims on the senator's vehicle that caught the carjackers' attention.
"The car is kind of sporty for a senator," said Oakland Police Lt. Lawrence Green. "When the captain called and described it, I said, 'We're talking about the suspect's car or the senator's car?' "
Perata said the chrome rims came with the car when he bought it. The car is officially owned by the Senate, and Perata said he pays for its use beyond his car allowance.
Oakland Police arrived at the scene, the busy North Oakland intersection of 51st Street and Shattuck Avenue, in two minutes. Perata was driven to his Oakland home and provided with a security detail, in case the assailants returned, police said.
The suspects had escaped onto the freeway by the time police arrived and have not been caught.
Asked if it is a common occurrence in Oakland, Green replied, "Senators getting robbed? Not too often." Carjackings, on the other hand, happen about once a day, he said.
Perata says he doesn't anticipate any new legislation coming out of the incident.
"I've been doing gun control for 20 years, and this confirms what I've always believed," he said. "This is simply a punctuation of my long career on this issue."