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Timeline: Stockton police arrest suspect linked to seven serial killings

For nearly 17 months, the gunman behind seven unsolved northern California serial killings eluded law enforcement and put the city of Stockton on edge.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Months after rumors of a serial killer in the city of Stockton first began to circulate, prosecutors have now linked eight shooting cases over the course of 17 months and arrested a suspect in connection to them.

The majority of the connected shooting cases, which now include seven homicides and one nonfatal shooting, happened in the city of Stockton and involved victims who were alone at late night or early morning hours, according to police officials.

As officials continue to look into the cases, investigators have shared key information on the eight shootings which they believe are connected.

Timeline of confirmed events:

April 10, 2021- First homicide case

At 4:18 a.m., Oakland Police officers responded to a ShotSpotter activation in the 5700 block of Harmon Avenue and found Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, of Oakland with gunshot wounds.

Officials with the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau say Serrano was shot multiple times and died at the scene.

Law enforcement officials in Stockton described Serrano as a Hispanic man.

Credit: ABC10

April 16, 2021- Second homicide case

At 1:17 a.m., officers with the Oakland Police Department were sent to the 6200 block of Bromley Street after a ShotSpotter activation. At the scene, officers said they found an Oakland man suffering from gunshot wounds.

The victim, later identified as 39-year-old Mervin Harmon, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Credit: Tiffany Lucas
Mervin Harmon

April 16, 2021- First non-fatal shooting

At 3:20 a.m., a 46-year-old Black woman was in her tent in the area of Park and Union Street in Stockton when she heard someone walking around her campsite, Stockton's Police Chief Stanley McFadden said.

The victim has since been identified as Natasha LaTour.

When she came out of her tent, she told investigators she saw someone holding a gun who then allegedly fired multiple shots at her, without saying any words, as she advanced at the gunman in self-defense.

The shooter then fled from the scene.

LaTour described the gunman as 5'10" to 6' tall, wearing dark pants, a dark COVID-style medical mask, and a dark jacket.

The shooting happened only two hours after the earlier homicide in Oakland.

July 8, 2022- Third homicide case

Nearly fifteen months after Harmon was shot and killed in Oakland, 35-year-old Paul Yaw was shot and killed at Stockton's Holiday Park on July 8.

At 12:31 a.m., officers responded to the park in the 5600 block of Kermit Lane and found Yaw, described by police as a white man, with gunshot wounds.

He was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries.

Credit: ABC

Aug. 11, 2022- Fourth homicide case

At 9:49 p.m., Stockton Police Department officers were called to the 4900 block of West Lane after reports came in of a shooting. When officers arrived, they found Salvador Debudey Jr, 43, suffering from gunshot wounds in the parking lot of a Popeyes.

Debudey, described by police as a Hispanic man, died from his injuries at the scene.

Credit: Natalie Muniz

Aug. 30, 2022- Fifth homicide case

At 6:41 a.m., Stockton police officers responded to the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 800 block of Hammer Lane for reports of a shooting. When officers arrived, they found a 21-year-old Hispanic man who was shot inside of a car.

The victim, identified as Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Credit: Stockton Police Department

Sept. 21, 2022- Sixth homicide case

At 4:27 a.m., 911 callers reported shots fired in the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue. When officers responded to the scene, they found a 52-year-old Hispanic man had been shot.

The 52-year-old, later identified as Juan Cruz, was shot on the sidewalk in between a car and the fence of an apartment complex. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Before or after the deadly shooting, a video camera captured the person of interest in the case walking near apartment units, law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC10. The video was later released during an Oct. 4 news conference.

Credit: ABC10

Sept. 27, 2022- Seventh homicide case

Just over one year and five months after Oakland resident Juan Vasquez Serrano was shot and killed, the seventh and most recent connected homicide occurred.

At 1:51 a.m., 911 callers reported a shooting in the 900 block of Porter Avenue in Stockton. When officers arrived, they found 54-year-old Lawrence Lopez Sr. on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds.

Lopez, a Hispanic man, died at the scene.

Credit: Greta Bogrow

Sept. 28, 2022- Police hold first press conference

One day after Lopez -- the victim in the seventh connected homicide case -- was shot and killed, the Stockton Police Department held a press conference to warn the public about a possible link between homicides in the city of Stockton.

At the time, authorities didn't know how many cases were linked but noted some recent homicides didn't involve robbery and happened during early morning or late night hours when victims were alone in areas with little to no cameras.

When pressed on whether he believed a serial killer was responsible for the linked cases, Stockton Police Chief Stan McFadden said his department did not have information linking the cases to a single gunman.

"We have been provided absolutely zero evidence that leads us to believe that one individual is running rampant in the city of Stockton killing people," McFadden said. "It could very well be that same shooter but regardless of whether it's a serial killer or not, it's a loss of life."

McFadden added that a team was formed to look into the cases.

Watch the full press conference here:

Sept. 30, 2022- Police define connected cases as "serial killings"

Two days after his first press conference, Chief McFadden held a second briefing about the linked homicide cases. This time, law enforcement identified a person of interest in five cases they confirmed were connected.

At the time, authorities said the homicide cases in Stockton on July 8, Aug. 11, Aug. 30, Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 were related. During the press conference, the Stockton Police Department released a photo showing a person of interest who was reportedly spotted at multiple scenes of the connected homicide cases.

McFadden said no video footage captured the crimes in action and as a result, investigators did not know if it was one gunman or multiple committing the homicides and whether the person of interest could be the gunman.

"Be alert, have your head on a swivel, stay where it's lit, communicate," McFadden said. "We want this person or people -- because we do not know at this time, we don't even know if it's male or female -- we don't have that information at this time but we want them brought to justice."

A reward of $85,000 was announced for information leading to an arrest in the case. Police also established a hotline and email for tips at 209-937-8167 and policetips@stocktonca.gov.

Watch the full press conference here:

Oct. 3, 2022- Police link more cases

In a 10:24 p.m. Facebook post, the Stockton Police Department said the April 10, 2021, shooting death of Oakland resident Juan Vasquez Serrano and the April 16, 2021, shooting of a woman in Stockton who survived were connected to the previously identified five linked homicides.

Officials added that the reward for information in the case had increased to $95,000 after an anonymous local construction company donated $10,000.

Oct. 4, 2022- Police release video of person of interest

At 3 p.m., Stockton law enforcement and city officials held a press conference while simultaneously releasing a video showing the person of interest.

The person of interest, dressed in all black, was walking near an apartment complex before or after the Sept. 21 shooting death of Juan Cruz on Manchester Avenue, police sources confirmed to ABC10.

McFadden described the person of interest's stride as uneven and having an upright posture.

He also said ballistic evidence now linked the cases together and described the killer as "on a mission."

Later on Oct. 4, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives donated $25,000 towards the reward fund bringing the total reward for information in the case up to $125,000.

Watch the full press conference here:

Oct. 5, 2022- City, police officials hold town hall

Stockton city officials scheduled a 6 p.m. "Public Safety Community Town Hall" at Victory Praise Church. Stockton's Mayor and other city leaders attended the town hall meeting to provide updates on public safety plans and data in light of the string of shootings.

RELATED: Stockton holding public safety town hall as search for possible serial killer continues

Oct. 13, 2022- Police hold outreach event at homeless encampment

Stockton's Police Chief and other police department officials held an outreach event to spread awareness about the serial killings within the unhoused community.

At the time, the chief said that while some victims in the serial killings were unhoused, he didn't believe that the unhoused were at a greater risk of being targeted.

Oct. 15, 2022- Suspect arrested

Before 2 a.m. Saturday, officers assigned to a surveillance task force within the Stockton Police Department began following the car belonging to a possible suspect in the case. During a news conference later in the day, authorities said tips from the public led detectives to the possible suspect.

Around 2 a.m., officers arrested Wesley Brownlee, 43, on Village Green Drive at Winslow Avenue, near Panella Park. Brownlee, who officers said had a gun with him at the time of his arrest, was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of murder. 

When officers made contact with Brownlee, they said he was wearing dark clothing and a mask around his neck. Stockton's Police chief said Brownlee was "on a mission to kill. He was out hunting."

Later in the day, detectives served a search warrant at Brownlee's apartment complex.

Watch the full press conference here:

Oct. 18, 2022- Wesley Brownlee arraigned

The man suspected in the seven serial killings and one nonfatal shooting was arraigned in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton on Oct. 18.

The arraignment was held in Department Z at 1:30 p.m. During the arraignment, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office filed their complaint which, at the time, included three counts of murder for the killings of Rodriguez, Cruz and Lopez.

Brownlee appeared in court, shackled and chained, wearing a red jail jumpsuit. He listened intently to the charges and told the judge that he understood them. Brownlee requested to be assigned a public defender.

Watch More: In Court | Suspected Stockton serial killer allegedly arrested with 'ghost gun'

Dec. 27, 2022- Prosecutors announce new charges

Less than a week until Brownlee was slated to appear in court again, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office filed new charges against him.

The new charges included counts of murder for Vasquez, Yaw and Debudey Jr. Brownlee was also charged in the Alameda County killing of Mervin Harmon, a case that neither prosecutors nor police officials had previously mentioned.

Brownlee is expected to appear in court on Jan. 3 to be arraigned on the new charges.

RELATED: Stockton Serial Killers: A look back at the city’s most notorious cases

Despite the arrest, the Stockton Police Department along with other local and federal agencies are still investigating the cases and are asking those with information to come forward.

Witnesses and tipsters can call 209-937-8167 or email policetips@stocktonca.gov. Those with information can also reach out to Stockton Crime Stoppers to report information anonymously at 209-946-0600.

Watch more Stockton stories from ABC10: Customers fundraise to give longtime Stockton restaurant owner a vacation

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