Stockton, California, police arrest serial murder suspect

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — A man suspected of killing six men and wounding a woman in a series of shootings in northern California was arrested before dawn Saturday as he drove through the streets of Stockton armed with a handgun and possibly another was looking for victims, police said.

Investigators began watching the suspect after receiving tips and stopped him in a car around 2 a.m. in the city of Central Valley, where five of the shootings took place, Police Chief Stanley McFadden said at a news conference.

Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton, was dressed in black, had a mask around his neck, carried a gun and “was on the hunt,” McFadden claimed.

“We are certain that we prevented another murder,” he added.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Brownlee had an attorney speaking on his behalf. He was due to be charged with murder on Tuesday.

A mug shot showed the black and gray gun the suspect was said to be carrying. It appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun containing some non-metallic materials.

Police had been looking for a man dressed in black who was caught on video at multiple crime scenes in Stockton, where between July 8 and September 27, five men were ambushed and shot in a parked car.

Police believe the same person was responsible for killing a man in Oakland, 70 miles away, in April 2021 and injuring a homeless woman in Stockton a week later.

Investigators have said ballistics testing and video evidence linked the crimes.

A minute’s silence was observed at the press conference for the victims.

Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021, and Natasha LaTour, 46, was shot dead 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, who died September 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died September 27.

Police said Brownlee had a criminal history and also lived in several towns near Stockton, but gave no further details.

Authorities said they received hundreds of leads after the manhunt was announced, and investigators located and observed the location where Brownlee lived.

“Based on the leads received by the department and by Stockton Crime Stoppers, we were able to identify a possible suspect,” McFadden said. “Our surveillance team tracked this individual while driving. We observed his patterns and determined this morning that he was on a mission to kill.”

McFadden added that Brownlee was arrested after what appeared to be threatening behavior, including walking in parks and dark places, stopping and looking around before continuing.

Investigators tried to identify a motive for the attacks. Police said some victims were homeless, but not all. No one was beaten or robbed, and the woman who survived said her attacker said nothing.

The police chief thanked various local, state and federal agencies involved 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 homicides 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 that there appeared to be no connection. Stockton, California, police arrest serial murder suspect

Dais Johnston

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