Law enforcement said last week that the modus operandi of an apparent serial killer made him very likely to be caught, and on Saturday, Stockton police announced an arrest.
"We are sure we stopped another killing,” said Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden at a Saturday afternoon press conference. The arrest, McFadden said, happened at 2 a.m. Saturday, when police said they apprehended 43-year-old Wesley Brownlee "out hunting" for a seventh victim and "on a mission to kill."
Brownlee was pulled over while driving in Stockton, near Panella Park at Village Green Drive and Winslow Way, and he was wearing dark clothing, with a black face mask around his neck, and carrying a firearm.
Stockton police say that Brownlee has a criminal history and has lived in several cities near Stockton, but more details are yet to come. The Sacramento Bee describes him as a "longtime" resident of Stockton.
Brownlee's last known address, per the Bee, was an apartment at Knickerbocker Drive and Tam O’Shanter Drive, which is several feet away from one of the murders, the killing of 21-year-old Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez that took place on August 30.
"Based on tips coming into the department and Stockton Crime Stoppers, we were able to zero in on a possible suspect," McFadden said, per KPIX. "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."
Police say they observed Brownlee engaging in "threatening behavior," driving around to city parks and appearing to be seeking a target in a darkened location. Some or most of the victims so far have been homeless.
As the Sacramento Bee reports, Brownlee's criminal record includes several traffic infractions, a 2009 DUI, and an unspecified felony in 2017 in San Joaquin County. Brownlee was also arrested and pleaded guilty after failing to stop at a border crossing in Arizona in 2019.
At the press conference, there was a moment of silence for the six victims, after which San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that Brownlee would be arraigned on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., as the Chronicle reports.
BREAKING: Wesley Brownlee, 43, has been arrested for being the suspected Shadow Stalker serial killer who claimed 6 lives and attempted to murder a woman. 5 of the victims were Mexican men. 4 pf the victims were homeless. #stockton #shadowstalker #serialkiller pic.twitter.com/gJGHGAT5jB— 209 Times (@209TimesCA) October 15, 2022
Ballistics evidence has linked seven shootings, six of them fatal, to a single shooter, with the first known killing in April 2021 and the last one on September 27. McFadden says there was no connection between the victims except that it seemed that the suspect was targeting a "certain complexion."
The known victims of the killer are Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, who was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021; Paul Yaw, 35, who was killed in Stockton on July 8, 2o22; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who was killed August 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who was shot on August 30; Juan Cruz, 52, who was killed September 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who was killed September 27. Homeless woman Natasha LaTour, 46, was the sole surviving victim, and she was shot in Stockton on April 16, 2021, six days after the Oakland killing.
Earlier this week, we learned that two unsolved killings in Chicago from 2018 were being investigated for possible links to these six murders, but authorities so far have said that no links have been established. While the Stockton and Oakland killings all occurred in late-night hours, the Chicago killings were in daylight, and the victims were both men out walking on the street in a suburban neighborhood.