Natasha LaTour was homeless and addicted to meth and lingering in a shadowy part of Stockton next to train tracks around 3 a.m. when a stranger approached, his clothes seeming to hang off him, and fired eight or ten shots at her.
She figures she was chosen as his third victim because she was alone, no witnesses anywhere nearby.
"It felt like if someone was throwing marbles at you or something like that … with just little pings,” LaTour tells CNN in a new interview. “Then there’s the, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it.’ There’s a searing burn, and then there’s an ache."
LaTour says she fell to the ground, and despite multiple wounds, she managed to push herself about 20 yards to a nearby street, where she hoped someone, or a passing car, would see her. Finally someone did, and an ambulance arrived. LaTour's last memory is of the ambulance having to wait for a train to pass before it could take her to the ER. She woke up four days later, having lost consciousness from the trauma and loss of blood.
Her alleged attacker is a suspected Bay Area serial killer. She forgives him but not the Stockton police https://t.co/jd8pIovsDI— Mercury News (@mercnews) January 11, 2023
Now, with shrapnel still in her and showing the scars of bullet wounds, LaTour is eager to tell her story to CNN. And, she says, she's been sober ever since, having felt the presence of God helping her to survive the ordeal.
The shooting happened on the morning of April 16, 2021. We learned last month via new charging documents that the accused shooter, 43-year-old Wesley Brownlee, was allegedly in Oakland — his hometown — earlier that night, fatally shooting a homeless man in a driveway in East Oakland. That man, Brownlee's seventh known victim, was 39-year-old Mervin Harmon.
LaTour, 42, believes that Stockton police already knew they were dealing with a serial killer when she was shot, or sometime shortly there after. Brownlee had, a week earlier, allegedly shot 39-year-old Juan Vasquez Serrano in Oakland. Ballistics evidence would ultimately link all three shootings, and then, as far as we know, the killer went quiet for 15 months, going on a spree last summer and killing five more men in Stockton starting in July 2022, mostly in shadowy locations with no surveillance, under cover of darkness.
Brownlee wouldn't ultimately be arrested until October, after the story had made national news, and with police conducting a sting because they already had some leads on who to follow. He now faces seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for the shooting of LaTour. He's set to be arraigned next week, on January 17.
A 43-year-old man accused of fatally shooting seven people in Stockton and Alameda County returned to court Tuesday morning in Stockton. https://t.co/R9sefXs91K— CBS News Bay Area (@KPIXtv) January 3, 2023
Astonishingly, as LaTour tells CNN, the only interview Stockton police ever did with her was while she was bleeding on the street. After over a week in the hospital LaTour says she sought out the investigating officer on her case, but he never followed up with her. We now learn, per CNN, that officer has left the department for a job elsewhere, and it's not clear if this investigative failure had something to do with it.
"Everybody that died after me didn’t have to," LaTour tells CNN. She says that when police released a grainy surveillance image of their suspect from behind, she immediately recognized the slender figure, clothes hanging off him, who approached her a year and a half earlier.
In an earlier interview with 209 Times last fall, LaTour said she felt she'd been treated like "trash" by Stockton police. "They treated me as if it was a drug deal gone bad. As if I knew something that I wasn’t sharing," LaTour said. "Throughout this process, ever since April, ever since I got out of the hospital, it was constantly me trying to reach them. They assisted me not at all."
LaTour says that Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden offered her an apology recently at a vigil for victims.
Joe Silva, public information officer for the Stockton Police Department, tells CNN, "The chief and I apologized to her and the reason for that was because she’s a victim of a violent crime and she was apologized to because of a follow up that was not conducted during her investigation."
It remains unclear at what point Stockton police new they were dealing with a likely serial killer, but five fatal shootings had to occur within a two-mile radius in Stockton before they went public and sought help identifying the killer. This is not to mention the two earlier shootings that were in the jurisdiction of Oakland police.
LaTour, for her part, says she's grateful to be alive and to be sober.
"I forgive Wesley Brownlee fully,” said LaTour of the prime suspect. But, she adds, “I’m not saying you should trust me in a room with him. I have tried to hate him. God won’t let me.”
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