Suspected Serial Killer Is Caught

Wesley Brownlee
Wesley Brownlee 43 - Suspected Serial Killer

Police have made an arrest in the central California serial killings, providing relief for a community that has been living in fear for more than a year.

According to Stockton police, they received tips from the community that led them to Wesley Brownlee, 43. As Brownlee was driving around 2 a.m. Saturday, investigators monitored his movements. At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said “they determined he was out hunting.”

“There was no way we could allow another killing to take place,” McFadden said, adding the suspect was wearing dark clothing, a mask, and armed with a handgun.

Using ballistics and video evidence, police have linked seven shootings to the case, six of which were fatal. It is believed that the attacks began last year.

Oakland was the scene of a fatal shooting in April 2021. Several days later, a 46-year-old woman was wounded in a shooting in Stockton. More shooting deaths followed more than a year later. Within a few miles of each other, five killings occurred between July 8 and Sept. 27 in Stockton.

Six men were killed; one woman survived, a key witness in the investigation. Many of the victims were homeless.

Video evidence captured the suspect at multiple crime scenes, but authorities remain mystified, urging residents to stay vigilant and avoid being outside alone late at night.

As part of the investigation, McFadden said police were assisted by residents who provided tips and “old-fashioned police work.” After tipsters provided a person of interest, officers began monitoring the suspect’s home. On Saturday morning, police followed him as he departed in a car. Earlier killings appeared to be part of what investigators called a “pattern,” McFadden said.

According to McFadden, the suspect was driving “around parks, around dark places, stopping, looking around, and moving again.”

It is not known what the suspect’s criminal history is, but authorities said he has a history of criminal activity. The District Attorney for San Joaquin County, Tori Verber Salazar, said he will be arraigned early next week.

There was no explanation provided by authorities for the slayings.

While officials investigated the string of murders, residents in the communities were living in fear. In Stockton, police went door-to-door and canvassed homeless encampments to warn residents to take precautions, such as traveling with others and staying indoors.

Ahead of his arrest, McFadden said, “Everyone is in fear. No, we do not need to stop living. However, we must be more alert. Situational awareness is necessary.”

Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, is believed to be the first fatal victim, shot multiple times in Oakland at 4:15 a.m. April 10th, 21.

A woman who was shot and survived said she was in her tent after 3 a.m. on April 16, 2021, when she heard someone walking around outside. Someone holding a gun met her when she emerged from the tent, and he fired several shots, wounding her.

Upon approaching her attacker, who wore dark clothes, a hood, and a protective mask, he lowered his weapon.

“She said no words were mentioned,” McFadden said last week.

A San Joaquin County Medical Examiner identified the Stockton victims as Paul Yaw, 35, who died July 8, Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who died Aug. 11, Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who died Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, who died Sept. 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, who died Sept. 27.

Before they were shot, none of the victims had been robbed or beaten, and the victims did not seem to know each other. McFadden described the attacks as ambushes.

McFadden said the killings appear not to be hate crimes, despite the fact that five of the seven victims were Latino.

John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.