STOCKTON, Calif. — The Stockton Police Department announced the arrest of a suspect in the recent string of serial killings, Saturday.
Stockton resident Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested for homicide in relation to the killings, according to police.
Police Chief Stanley McFadden says tips coming through the Stockton Crime Stoppers line helped authorities "zero in on a suspect" where they were able to follow him driving around.
"We watched his patterns and determined early this morning he was on a mission to kill. He was out hunting," said McFadden. "He was stopped by our team in the area of Village Green Drive and Winslow Ave around 2 a.m. this morning... We’re sure we stopped another killing."
The suspect was taken into custody wearing dark clothing with a mask around his neck and was armed with a firearm, according to officials.
“I am grateful for the work of the Stockton Police Department and law enforcement agencies who lent their support to this investigation,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “When we face a challenge or threat to the safety of Californians, we stand stronger when we stand together. The citizens of Stockton, and California communities, can feel comfort in knowing that this suspect is now in custody.”
The suspect will be arraigned Tuesday where officials will announce additional charges.
This continues to be an ongoing and fluid investigation, according to officials.
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A serial killer may have ambushed seven people separately in recent months, shooting them alone in the dark.
None of the originally linked five victims were robbed or beaten before the shootings — which all took place within a radius of a few square miles — and none appear to have known each other, Stockton Police Officer Joseph Silva said. The shootings also do not seem to be related to gangs or drugs, either.
Police most recently linked a non-fatal April 2021 shooting of a Black woman at Park Street and Union Street, and an April 2021 shooting death of a Hispanic man in Oakland to the homicide series investigation.
Authorities released a grainy still image of a "person of interest," dressed all in black and wearing a black cap, who appeared in videos from several of the crime scenes.
- April 10, 2021: The shooting death of 39-year-old Juan Vasquez Serrano in Oakland. It happened around 4:20 a.m.
- April 16, 2021: An unidentified 46-year-old woman was shot at Park Street and Union Street in Stockton around 3:20 a.m. She survived the shooting.
- July 8: The shooting death of Paul Yaw, a 35-year-old man, in the 5600 block of Kermit Lane. It happened around 12:30 a.m.
- Aug. 11: The shooting death of Salvador Debudey Jr., a 43-year-old man, in the 4900 block of West Lane. It happened around 9:50 p.m.
- Aug. 30: The shooting death of Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, a 21-year-old man, in the 800 block of E. Hammer Lane. It happened around 6:40 a.m.
- Sept. 21: The shooting death of Juan Cruz, a 52-year-old man, in the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue. It happened around 4:30 a.m.
- Sept. 27: The shooting death of Lawrence Lopez Sr., a 54-year-old man in the 900 block of Porter Avenue. It happened around 2 a.m.
"It's mind-blowing," said Nick Yaw, cousin to Paul Yaw. "I couldn't have imagined that a serial killer would be the one to murder my cousin. It's scary. It's really scary."
Yaw said his cousin was more like a brother, who loved fishing and cars.
"It's terrible this happened to him. I just hope we find the killer," he said.
None of the shootings have been captured by video cameras and no firearms have been recovered.
"We don't have any video of anybody holding any gun or actually committing a crime," Silva said in a phone interview Monday.
There may even be multiple people involved in the violence. "To be honest, we just don't know," he said. "This person or people who are out doing this, they are definitely very bold and brazen."
Police said four of the victims were each walking alone and a fifth was in a parked car when they were killed in the evening or early morning in Stockton. It's not clear what the victims from April 2021 were doing before they were shot.
The ages of the homicide victims range from 21 to 54; five of the men were Hispanic and one was white.
San Joaquin Delta College has sent messages to the college community about remaining vigilant and students are heeding that advice.
"Usually, I like to be on my phone a lot, but now, I just wanna make sure I'm looking around both sides. If I'm taking the bus, I'm making sure what's around me, what's behind me," said Anthony Sinclair, a Delta College student.
The college is also stepping up patrols to keep students safe. Stockton police have also increased patrols at night as detectives and task force members are working the case around the clock.
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