Stockton serial killings: Everything we know and don’t know so far about the victims and suspect
Five recent shooting deaths in Stockton — and one in Oakland last year — appear to be connected, prompting police to call the incidents a “series of killings.”
Along with the five deaths in Stockton and one in Oakland, the shooting of a woman in Stockton last year who survived is also linked in connection with the serial killings.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, a 43-year-old armed Stockton man was arrested in connection with the killings. Stockton’s police chief said a surveillance team had followed Wesley Brownlee while he was driving and “determined he was on a mission to kill.”
Here’s everything we know so far about the shootings and Brownlee’s arrest – and what we don’t:
Who was killed?
Six men were killed — five in Stockton this year and one in Oakland last year. The victims were identified by police as:
- 35-year-old Paul Alexander Yaw
- 43-year-old Salvador William Debudey Jr.
- 21-year-old Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez
- 52-year-old Juan Cruz
- 52-year-old Lorenzo Lopez
The victim in Oakland was a 40-year-old Hispanic man. Affiliate KTVU reported that the coroner identified the man as Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano.
The San Francisco Chronicle, our Hearst affiliate, reported that Serrano was an unhoused individual known and well-liked in the Seminary neighborhood of East Oakland as a car mechanic-for-hire. People would occasionally let him sleep in the cars he was fixing.
| MORE | What we’re learning about victims of the Stockton serial killings
Who was wounded?
A 46-year-old Black woman is the only known survivor of the shootings. Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said the woman biked to an encampment at Park and Union streets in Stockton where she was shot on April 16, 2021, at around 3:30 a.m.
The woman was by a tent when she saw a man, dressed in all dark clothing, wearing a dark face mask and a dark jacket. She said the man was anywhere between 5 foot 10 inches to 6 foot 2 inches.
The woman told police that no words were exchanged between them and that she tried defending herself by advancing toward him. She was hit multiple times by gunfire.
Where did the shootings happen?
Most of the deadly shootings happened in Stockton within a four-mile radius of one another. The shooting where the woman survived happened to the south of the five deadly shootings.
Here’s a map with more information:
When did the shootings happen?
The five deadly Stockton shootings that happened this year ranged from July 8 to Sept. 27.
The shooting in Stockton where the woman survived happened on April 16, 2021. The Oakland deadly shooting happened on April 10, 2021.
McFadden noted an inconsistent span of time between each attack. The time spent between the first attack on April 10, 2021, and the next one was six days. The time spent between that second attack and the third was 448 days.
From the third attack to the fourth attack, 34 days passed, McFadden said. From the fifth attack to the sixth attack, 22 days passed. And from the sixth attack to the last known attack on Sept. 27 was six days.
Is anyone being targeted?
It’s unclear if anyone is being targeted, but it’s notable that five victims out of the seven shootings were Hispanic men and four of the victims were experiencing homelessness.
Stockton police don’t believe that there is any indication that these are hate crimes.
What do the shootings have in common?
McFadden said in a press conference that the shootings tend to have a pattern: They happen when it’s dark, late at night, and when people are by themselves in badly lit areas.
The victims also appear to have been caught by surprise, he said.
Why do police think the shootings are connected?
Stockton police have confirmed that ballistics tests have linked the shootings to one another, but police are not saying if all shootings are linked to the same gun.
At some point, McFadden during a briefing said he had “absolutely no answer as to why that pistol went dormant for over 400 days” in reference to the time spent between the second attack and the third one.
Who was just arrested in the case?
Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton was arrested around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, “while out hunting,” Police Chief Stanley McFadden said.
The police chief said the arrest was made possible thanks to community tips and the work of his department.
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“Our surveillance team followed this person while he was driving. We watched his patterns and determined early this morning he was on a mission to kill. He was out hunting,” McFadden said.
He was caught driving on Winslow Way and Village Green Drive. He was wearing dark clothing with a mask around his neck and was armed with a firearm, McFadden said.
Brownlee is believed to have lived in Stockton off and on, while also living in other cities, and has a criminal record.
They believe he is the person of interest captured in the video that police released on Oct. 4.
Stockton Police Department
Police said they are testing the gun that Brownlee had to see if it’s linked to all seven shootings.
Brownlee will appear in court on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Salazar said the district attorney’s office is working to determine the charges against him.
How many people are believed to be involved in the killings?
Police said that Brownlee is the only suspect in the case “at this time.”
They had previously said they weren’t sure whether one person or more than one person had been involved.
Are the serial killings connected to two 2018 murders in Chicago?
Short answer: probably not.
Joe Silva, a spokesperson for the Stockton Police Department, at one point said officers were working with the Chicago Police Department to see if two 2018 Chicago murders are linked to the serial killings in Stockton and Oakland. The connection? The similarity in the suspect’s manner of walking in the surveillance videos in both cities.
But a day later, Stockton police said that investigators do not believe there is any connection between the killings in both cities.
Stockton Police Department, left, Chicago Police Department, right
In Chicago, two deadly shootings happened just 36 hours apart in the West Rogers neighborhood, according to the Chicago Tribune. Investigators released surveillance video of a suspect in those homicides. The person in this video — from the Sept. 30, 2018 murder — much like the person of interest in Stockton, had an uneven stride and walked with their hands in their pockets, and was called the “Duck Walk Killer.”
Is there a tip line set up for police? How to report information?
A $125,000 cash reward has been offered to anyone who can bring information that leads to an arrest in any of the investigations, police said.
McFadden said they are still seeking information as the investigation continues.
A tip line will remain open for people to submit information at 209-937-8167. People can email tips to at firstname.lastname@example.org. Video surveillance can be submitted to Stocktonpdca.evidence.com.
What else do we still not know?
What was exact the tip, or piece of information, that led police to Brownlee?
When did surveillance begin on Brownlee – was this overnight surveillance and arrest the first time he was followed by detectives?
What was the suspect’s motive?
This is a developing story