STOCKTON, California – A man suspected of killing six men and injuring a woman in a series of shootings in Northern California was arrested on Saturday before dawn as he was driving through the streets of Stockton, armed with a gun and possibly looking for a another victim, the police said.
Investigators began looking at the suspect after receiving suggestions and pulled him to a car at around 2 am in the town 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, had a gun and “was on the hunt,” McFadden said.
“We are sure we have stopped another murder,” he added.
It was not immediately clear whether Brownlee had a lawyer speaking on his behalf. He was due to be tried on Tuesday on a murder charge.
A police photo showed the black and gray weapon allegedly carried by the suspect. It appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol containing some non-metallic materials.
Police were looking for a man dressed in black who was filmed at several crime scenes in Stockton, where five men were ambushed and shot dead between July 8 and September 27. Four were walking and one was in a parked car.
Police believe the same person was responsible for killing a man 70 miles away in Oakland in April 2021 and injuring a homeless woman in Stockton a week later.
Investigators said ballistic tests and video evidence linked the crimes.
A moment of silence was held at the press conference for the victims.
Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021, and Natasha LaTour, 46, was killed in Stockton on April 16 of that year, but she survived. The five men killed in Stockton this year were Paul Yaw, 35, who died on July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who died on 11 August; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who died on August 30; Juan Cruz, 52, died on 21 September; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died on September 27.
Police said Brownlee has a criminal history and is believed to have also lived in several towns near Stockton, but did not provide further details.
Authorities said they received hundreds of suggestions after announcing the manhunt, and investigators located and observed where Brownlee lived.
“Based on suggestions from the department and from Stockton Crime Stoppers, we were able to focus on a possible suspect,” McFadden said. “Our surveillance team followed this person as he drove. We looked at his patterns and determined early this morning that he was on a mission to kill. “
McFadden added that Brownlee was arrested after engaging in behavior that appeared to be threatening, including going to parks and dark places, stopping and looking around before continuing.
Investigators were trying to identify the reason for the attacks. Police said some of the victims were homeless, but not all. No one was beaten or robbed and the surviving woman said her attacker said nothing about her.
The police chief thanked various local, state and federal agencies that took part in the investigation, including the FBI, the US Marshals, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Local investigators had also worked with Chicago police to determine if the murders could be linked to two 2018 murders in that city’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Authorities said the videos of the suspects showed a man in black with a characteristic gait.
However, Chicago police said Friday that there appeared to be no connection.
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