An arrest has been made in a series of killings that occurred in Stockton, California, authorities announced Saturday.
Acting on tips, police watched and arrested Wesley Brownlee, 43, who was taken into custody about 2 a.m. Saturday in connection with six homicides and one injury shooting, Stockton Police Department Chief Stanley McFadden said at a news conference.
“Our surveillance team followed this person while he was driving,” he said. “He was on a mission to kill. He was out hunting.”
The chief said the suspect was in dark clothing, had a mask around his neck, and was armed.
“We are sure we stopped another killing,” McFadden said.
Investigators allege the suspect used his vehicle in the attacks but then got on foot before opening fire. In previous news conferences and statements, Stockton police indicated the shooter essentially sneaked up on victims.
“His pattern and preying was at some point to get on foot,” McFadden said Saturday.
Six people were killed and one survived the string of shootings that began in April 2021. The most recent was on Sept. 27. Investigators used ballistic evidence to connect the shootings.
Most of the victims were Latino although authorities have said they found no evidence the killings were race based. Three victims were homeless.
McFadden said at a news conference Oct. 4 that no evidence existed to support a hate motive. “We have no witness that has said this person has said anything like that, or even spoke for that matter,” he said.
On Saturday, the chief did not speak about motive. Rather, he credited Stockton residents for sending in the phone tips that helped his task force focus on the suspect’s Stockton residence and then shadow him when he drove.
“We maintained eyes on his residence until he became mobile,” McFadden said. “We identified that he’s posing a threat.”
The chief said the suspect has a criminal history, the details of which McFadden did not reveal, and he lives near one of the homicides.
The arrest was made at the north end of the city, near a community center that houses a police substation, and not far from a high school named for late Central Valley labor leader Cesar Chavez.
A Stockton police SWAT team subsequently searched the suspect’s residence, described as an apartment, McFadden said. Findings were not divulged.
Police later posted a photograph of a 9 mm handgun on the agency’s Facebook page. It’s the weapon McFadden said his officers found in the suspect’s vehicle.
District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said formal charges would be announced Tuesday. “You don’t come to our house and bring this kind of reign of terror,” she said.
McFadden emphasized that the investigation into the killings was ongoing, and police still want tips from the public.
The victims have been identified as Paul Alexander Yaw, 35; Salvador Debudey, Jr., 43; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21; Juan Cruz, 52; Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54; Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39; and an unidentified 46-year-old Black woman who survived.
Serrano is believed to have been the first victim. He was fatally shot just before 4: 20 a.m. on April 10, 2021, in Oakland, police said. Another shooting occurred days later, on April 16 and involved the unidentified woman. She told authorities that she was in her tent and came outside around 3: 20 a.m., advanced on a man who was creating a disturbance and was immediately shot.
The woman described the shooter as 5 feet 10inches tall and wearing dark clothing and a dark mask, police said.
Yaw was killed on July 8 at a park in Stockton, his mother Greta Bogrow said. Bogrow, who lives in Texas, said she has been estranged from Yaw, who had been homeless for about five years.
The next shooting took place on Aug. 11. According to police Debudey was shot around 9: 49 p.m. in a parking lot. Officers tried to perform lifesaving measures but he died at the scene, police said. About three weeks later, on Aug. 30, Rodriguez was gunned down in his vehicle outside of his apartment complex, the station reported.
The last two shootings happened days apart on Sept. 21 when Cruz was killed, and on Sept. 27 when Lopez was shot and killed just before 2 a.m. on the 900 block of Porter Avenue.
The homicides have frightened the city of more than 322,000 in the Central Valley, about 80 miles east of San Francisco.
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