OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — An Oakland man was identified on Tuesday who, according to investigators, was the first victim of a possible California serial killer.
Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, of Oakland, was slain on Harmon Avenue at 4:18 a.m. on April 10, 2021, an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told KRON4.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said ballistics evidence linked Serrano’s killer with recent serial killings in Stockton.
McFadden told reporters on Tuesday, “We could have a potential serial killer. We are doing everything we can to keep the city safe.” A $125,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
All of the homicide victims were targeted while walking alone down dark, empty sidewalks, police said. Five of the Stockton victims were fatally shot within the past three months.
A lone surviving victim, who was shot just six days after Serrano, gave a description of the gunman to police. The woman said she was inside her tent when she heard footsteps. When she looked outside her tent, a person opened fire. The shooter was about 6-feet-tall, wore dark clothing, and said nothing, the woman told police.
McFadden showed reporters surveillance video of a “person of interest” and said, “Notice how upright this person’s posture is. This person’s posture is extremely upright.”
The most recent killing happened at 1:53 a.m. on September 27 when a 54-year-old Hispanic man was gunned down on Porter Avenue.
“It definitely meets the definition of a serial killer,” officer Joseph Silva told KTXL. “What makes this different is the shooter is just looking for an opportunity. Our victims were alone in a dark area.”
As far as a motive, police do not believe the serial killings were hate crimes, gang-related, nor robberies.
The victims’ ages ranged between 21-54. Most of the victims were Hispanic men. “The Hispanic community is the largest population in the city. Well over 42 percent. It’s very concerning,” mayor Kevin Lincoln said.
McFadden urged Stockton residents to be vigilant while the person is still at-large. “We would like to remind everyone to remain vigilant and have good situational awareness. Please avoid isolated areas and travel in well-lit areas. Remember, there is safety in numbers so if you can, travel with a friend,” the police chief said.
McFadden said he assembled an “all-star team” of investigators who will catch the killer or killers responsible. “I want to thank the men and women of this police department who have not gone home.” Stockton police said they are also working closely together with Oakland police.
Mayor Lincoln told reporters Tuesday, “This recent string of homicides we now know, are interconnected. The task force will not stop until justice is served. Those families deserve justice.”
A $125,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest was raised through ATF, the City of Stockton, Stockton Crime Stoppers, and anonymous business owners.
McFadden wrote in a message to the public on Facebook, “We are committed to protecting our community and solving these cases utilizing all the resources at our disposal including YOU. We need YOUR help!!!! If anyone has information regarding these investigations, call us immediately. Please remember our victims have grieving family members who need resolution. If you know something, say something.”
Police setup a tip line at 209-937-8167. You can also email information to email@example.com, or submit video surveillance to stocktonpdca.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/tips2022 . Stockton Crime Stoppers can be contacted at 209-946-0600 or stocktoncrimestoppers.org
Serial killing victims
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Medical Examiner released the following victims’ identities to KRON4 on Tuesday:
April 10, 2021: Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, of Oakland was shot on Harmon Avenue at 4:18 a.m. The Oakland Police Department was alerted to the shooting by its ShotSpotter gunshot audio detection system, but when officers arrived, the killer had already slipped away.
July 8, 2022: Paul Yaw, 35, was gunned down on the 5600 block of Kermit Lane at 12:31 a.m. in Stockton.
August 11, 2022: Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, was fatally shot on the 4900 block of West Lane at 9:49 p.m. in Stockton.
August 30, 2022: Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, was slain by a gunman on the 800 block E. Hammer Lane at 6:41 a.m. in Stockton.
September 21, 2022: Juan Cruz, 52, was fatally shot on the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue at 4:27 a.m. in Stockton.
September 27, 2022: Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, was fatally shot on the 900 block of Porter Avenue at 1:53 a.m. in Stockton.
April 16, 2021: According to the Stockton Police Chief, a 46-year-old Black woman was shot next to her tent on Park Street near Union Street in Stockton at 3:20 a.m. The woman said she was inside the tent when she heard footsteps. The gunman never said a word before firing multiple shots. The injured woman fought back by charging at the person. She said the shooter was thin, about 6-feet-tall, wore dark clothing, and had a COVID-style face mask on.