OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — A man accused of “hunting” victims on the streets of Stockton was reportedly scarred by his own experiences of growing up around gun violence in Oakland, according to reports.
Suspected serial killer Wesley Brownlee was out hunting for an eighth victim when police found and arrested him on Saturday, according to Stockton’s police chief.
Investigators are now trying to piece together a motive for why the 43-year-old man would allegedly shoot complete strangers who were alone at night. Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden described Brownlee as a “cold-blooded killer” who “terrorized” the city. “We are sure we stopped another killing,” McFadden said.
One of the serial homicide victims was slain in Oakland, the same city where Brownlee reportedly lived during his teenaged years. He was 16 when his brother, Dale, was shot to death on East 16th Street in 1995, according to the East Bay Times. A probation officer wrote that Brownlee, “apparently suffers both innate mental limitation and psychological stress over his brother’s 1995 shooting death,” the East Bay Times reported.
Not long after Dale’s death, Brownlee was arrested for selling drugs in Alameda County. In January 1999, Brownlee was sentenced by an Alameda County judge to serve two years in prison for possessing and selling a controlled substance, the California corrections department said. He was released on parole after serving seven months.
Brownlee convicted again of the same crime in Alameda County in December 2001 and sentenced to three years behind bars, court records show. He was released to parole in 2003. He was arrested a third time in Alameda County in 2014 for possessing cocaine with intent to sell, according to court records.
Brownlee was living in Stockton when he went on a killing spree this summer and fall, according to police. Investigators said ballistics tests linked the crimes. After receiving hundreds of tips from the public, investigators located and monitored Brownlee’s home, looking for patterns in his activities. “Based on tips coming into the department and Stockton Crime Stoppers, we were able to zero in on a possible suspect,” McFadden said.
Undercover officers followed Brownlee as he was driving around the city at 2 a.m. Saturday armed with a gun.
“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,” McFadden said.
When officers intervened and arrested Brownlee, he was wearing black clothing and a mask around his neck. According to his inmate records, he is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. His clothing and body description matches a description given to police by a woman, 46-year-old Natasha LaTour, who was shot several times in Stockton and survived.
LaTour said she charged toward a masked mysterious man who fired off more than 10 shots on April 16, 2021. LaTour said she crawled toward a street hoping that a passing motorists or someone nearby would see her. She was the only victim who survived the homicide spree.
Brownlee was booked into a San Joaquin County Jail with no bail on Saturday afternoon.
“The city was able to sleep a little bit better last night,” Mayor Kevin Lincoln said Sunday. “No resident of this city should have to walk around town looking over their shoulder in fear.”
On Monday, San Joaquin County prosecutors worked with the Stockton Police Department to review the evidence before filing charges. Police were able to arrest Brownlee on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm, jail records state. Homicide charges are expected to be filed on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Brownlee is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
McFadden said, “Just because an arrest was made, does not mean the investigation stops. We now have to have a successful prosecution for our victims and their families. I have met with our victims’ families. I can’t go into our conversations, but our talks were very emotional, and they want justice. We have an all-star team of District Attorneys and Lead Detectives who will be bringing justice for our victims, their families, and the entire community that this cold-blooded killer terrorized.”
The Seven Victims
Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, of Oakland, was shot on Harmon Avenue at 4:18 a.m. on April 10, 2021. 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.
Natasha LaTour, 46, was living in a tent on the corner of Park and Union streets in Stockton on April 16, 2021. Around 3 a.m., the sound of crunching gravel alerted her that someone was coming. LaTour was trapped between a wall and a passing train, so she rushed at the firing gunman. She said the person fired more shots and then walked away as she lay in the street bleeding.
Paul Yaw, 35, of Stockton, was slain on the 5600 block of Kermit Lane at 12:31 a.m. July 8, 2022 in Stockton.
Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, of Stockton, was fatally shot on the 4900 block of West Lane at 9:49 p.m. on August 11, 2022 in Stockton.
Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, of Stockton, was slain by a gunman on the 800 block E. Hammer Lane at 6:41 a.m. on August 30, 2022 in Stockton.
Juan Cruz, 52, of Stockton, was fatally shot on the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue at 4:27 a.m. on September 21, 2022 in Stockton.
Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, of Stockton, was fatally shot on the 900 block of Porter Avenue at 1:53 a.m. on September 27, 2022 in Stockton.
Police do not believe the serial killings were hate crimes, gang-related, nor robberies. None of the victims were robbed after they were shot. One victim was white, one was Black, and five were Hispanic. All of the victims, except LaTour, were men. The only common thread between the victims was that they were all targeted when they were vulnerable from being alone on dark streets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.