Police arrest suspected serial killer in Stockton, Calif.: NPR
Clifford Oto / The File via AP
STOCKTON, Calif. – A man suspected of killing six men and injuring a woman in a series of shootings in Northern California was arrested before dawn Saturday as he walked through the streets of Stockton, armed with a a handgun and possibly looking for another victim, police said.
Investigators began monitoring the suspect after receiving tips and arrested him in a car around 2 a.m. in the Central Valley town, where five of the shootings took place, Police Chief Stanley McFadden said during a press conference.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton, was dressed in black, had a mask around his neck, had a gun and “was on the hunt”, McFadden said.
“We are sure we have stopped another murder,” he added.
It was not immediately clear whether Brownlee had an attorney to speak on his behalf. He was to be arrested on Tuesday for murder.
A police photo showed the black and gray weapon believed to have been carried by the suspect. It was apparently a semi-automatic handgun containing non-metallic materials.
Police were looking for a man dressed in black who was filmed at several crime scenes in Stockton where five men were ambushed and shot between July 8 and September 27. Four were walking and one was in a parked car.
Police believe the same person was responsible for killing a man 70 miles away in Oakland in April 2021 and injuring a homeless woman in Stockton a week later.
Investigators said ballistics tests and video evidence were linked to the crimes.
During the press conference, a minute of silence was observed for the victims.
Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021, and Natasha LaTour, 46, was shot in Stockton on April 16 of the same year but survived. The five men killed in Stockton this year were Paul Yaw, 35, who died on July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, died August 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, died August 30; Juan Cruz, 52, died September 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died Sept. 27.
Police said Brownlee had a criminal history and also allegedly lived in several towns near Stockton, but they did not provide further details.
Authorities said they received hundreds of tips after announcing the manhunt, and investigators located and monitored where Brownlee lived.
“Based on information received by the department and Stockton Crime Stoppers, we were able to identify a potential suspect,” McFadden said. “Our surveillance team tracked this individual as he drove. We observed his habits and determined early this morning that he was on a mission to kill.”
McFadden added that Brownlee was arrested after engaging in what appeared to be threatening behavior, including going to parks and dark places, stopping and looking around before continuing.
Investigators were trying to identify the motive for the attacks. Police said some victims were homeless, but not all. None were beaten or robbed, and the woman who survived said her attacker said nothing.
The police chief thanked various local, state and federal agencies that participated in the investigation, including the FBI, US Marshals and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Local investigators had also worked with Chicago police to determine if the killings could be linked to two 2018 murders in that city’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Authorities said videos from suspects showed a man in black with a distinctive gait.
However, Chicago police said Friday there appeared to be no connection.