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Man arrested in series of Stockton, California, killings

Six people have died and one survived the string of shootings, which began in April 2021.
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A man has been arrested in a series of killings 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 an injury shooting, Stockton Police 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."

McFadden 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 he opened 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, which 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 there was no evidence 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 then. He did not speak about motive Saturday.

A person of interest in a series of homicides in Stockton, Calif., and Chicago.
A person of interest in a series of homicides in Stockton, Calif., and Chicago.Stockton Police Department via Twitter

McFadden credited Stockton residents with 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."

McFadden said that the suspect has a criminal history, the details of which he did not reveal, and that he lives near one of the homicide scenes.

He was arrested 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 the late Central Valley labor leader Cesar Chavez.

A Stockton police SWAT team 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 their Facebook page. It is the weapon McFadden said his officers found in the suspect's vehicle.

San Joaquin County 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 continues and that 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 days later, on April 16, involved the unidentified woman. She told authorities that she was in her tent and went 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, 10 inches tall, wearing dark clothing and a dark mask, police said.

Yaw was killed July 8 at a park in Stockton, said his mother, Greta Bogrow. Bogrow, who lives in Texas, said she had been estranged from Yaw, who had been homeless for about five years.

The next shooting took place Aug. 11. Police said 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 his apartment complex, NBC affiliate KCRA of Sacramento reported.

The last two shootings happened days apart, on Sept. 21, when Cruz was killed, and 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.