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Suspected Stockton Serial Killer Arrested While 'Out Hunting' For Next Victim, Police Say
Following the arrest of Wesley Brownlee, who was allegedly found with a mask around his neck and a firearm in his possession, police said, "We are sure we stopped another killing."
Police have arrested a suspected killer accused of lurking in the shadows and killing at least six men at random.
In September, Stockton Police Department Chief Stanley McFadden appealed to the public for help identifying a man they believe is responsible for fatally shooting six men and injuring a woman since 2021. On Saturday, McFadden released a statement that they arrested 43-year-old Wesley Brownlee, thanks to community tips and “good old fashioned police work.”
Authorities believe they stopped Brownlee while he was allegedly on the prowl for his next victim.
“We are sure we stopped another killing,” authorities stated in their release.
Police surveillance team members tailed Brownlee in a vehicle, ending at around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday near Village Green Drive and Winslow Avenue in Stockton. Officials remained tight-lipped about what led them to Brownlee, other than to say the lead was “based on tips coming into the department and Stockton Crime Stoppers.”
According to ABC Sacramento affiliate KXTV, investigators followed Brownlee after he left his Stockton apartment, just minutes from where five of the six homicides occurred.
“We watched his patterns and determined early this morning; he was on a mission to kill,” police stated. “He was out hunting.”
Officers found Brownlee wearing dark-colored clothes and a mask around his neck, according to the release. He was also found with a firearm which investigators say might be the weapon used in the seven shootings.
Several local figures, including McFadden, City Manager Harry Black and San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, held a press conference on Saturday, according to NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA-TV.
“I want to make this very, very clear to the people of Stockton, to the United States, and around the world: When the people of Stockton come together, and we unite, we can get things done,” said Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln. “Stockton will be a place where people can live, raise a family and grow a business.”
On Sept. 30, Police Chief McFadden released a blurry still photo of the suspect believed to be behind the shooting deaths of five men over the summer. Paul Yaw, 35, killed on July 8; Salvador William Debudey Jr., 43, killed on Aug. 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, killed on Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, killed on Sept. 21; and Lorenzo Lopez Sr., 54, killed on Sept. 27.
Days later, McFadden announced ballistics also linked the suspect to two additional attacks — just six days apart from one another — in 2021. The first was the fatal shooting of a man identified by San Francisco Bay Area’s KRON-TV as Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, who was killed on April 10, 2021, in Oakland — about 70 miles west of where the other victims were gunned down in Stockton.
Additionally, on April 16, 2021, police say the suspect allegedly shot 46-year-old Natasha LaTour not far from where the 2022 murders occurred in a cluster on the city’s north side. LaTour — who was then unhoused — narrowly survived the attack after being shot about 10 times, after which she ran toward a street, where a passerby stopped to help, according to ABC San Francisco affiliate KGO-TV.
Police said all of the victims were attacked while alone in poorly-lit areas of the city; a suspected serial killer among them.
A possible motive has yet to be established, though authorities said they previously ruled out theories around drug and gang affiliations. Police also stated they don’t believe the killer was motivated by hate, despite five of the six homicide victims being Hispanic and LaTour being Black.
Several of the victims, though not all, were homeless, and none were beaten or robbed, according to the Associated Press.
McFadden thanked numerous law enforcement agencies for helping them in their search and apprehension of a suspect, including San Joaquin County officials, state investigators, local police departments and several federal agencies, including the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service.
McFadden said he discussed the arrest with the victims’ families and that their “talks were very emotional, and they want justice.”
“I am honored to tell [victim’s families] and all of you that we have an all-star team of district attorneys and lead detectives who will be bringing justice for our victims, their families and the entire community that this cold-blooded killer terrorized,” according to Saturday’s release.
KCRA-TV reported Brownlee lived in and out of Stockton and carries a criminal record, though the details of his rap sheet were slim. Public records obtained by the outlet show Brownlee has traffic and drug violations between California and Arizona.
Stockton authorities conferred with Chicago detectives about whether or not their suspect could be the “Duck Walk Killer,” an elusive gunman allegedly behind two 2018 shootings that fit a pattern, according to CBS News. However, that theory has been ruled out, KXTV reported.
District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar also gave a statement at Saturday’s news conference, according to KCRA-TV.
“The crime was solved because we’re Stockton,” Salazar stated. “You don’t come to our house and bring this reign of terror.”
Jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Wesley Brownlee is charged with murder and multiple firearm charges, including carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is due in court on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Officials hope people with information continue to come forward by calling their tip line at 1-209-937-8167 or emailing email@example.com. Tipsters can also submit their information to Stockton Crime Stoppers at 1-209-946-0600.