6 killings have now been linked to 1 person of interest in California. Police now say he meets the definition of a serial killer.

Stockton city officials stand in front of a podium.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden, center, flanked by Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln, left, and City Manager Harry Black listen to a question about the investigation into a suspected serial killer during a news conference in Stockton, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
  • Police in Stockton, California on Tuesday said they are investigating a potential serial killer.

  • Authorities used ballistics tests to link six shooting deaths and a seventh injury in recent months.

  • Police are asking the public's help in identifying a "person of interest" caught on surveillance footage.

Police on Tuesday said a serial killer could be behind six shooting deaths that have left California's Central Valley unnerved in recent months.

The classification comes days after authorities in Stockton, California said five victims killed between July 8 and September 27 were fatally shot while walking alone in dark areas. All five were men between the ages of 21 and 54, police said, and four were Hispanic while the fifth was white.

"We don't know what the motive is. What we do believe is that it's mission-oriented," Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Tuesday during a press conference, according to The Washington Post. "This person's on a mission."

On Monday, police said two additional shootings last year were likely linked to the spree, including a 40-year-old Hispanic man who was killed in Oakland on April 10, 2021 and a 46-year-old Black woman who was injured in a shooting in Stockton on April 16, 2021 but survived.

"I have absolutely no answer as to why that pistol went dormant for over 400 days," McFadden said during a Tuesday news conference, referring to the months between the April 2021 shootings and the resurgence of murders earlier this summer, according to The Guardian.

"It definitely meets the definition of a serial killer," said Stockton Police Officer Joseph Silva, per NBC Bay Area.

Police used ballistics tests and video footage to connect the shootings and reviewed hours of surveillance footage to identify a person of interest in the incidents. Stockton authorities released a dark photo of a figure walking and asked the public for help identifying the subject.

A police spokesman the day before had said investigators were still trying to determine whether multiple shooters were involved, but Stockton City Manager Harry Black during the Tuesday news conference said detectives were searching for "what looks like a single person who committed these crimes," according to NBC Bay Area.

Police also declined to say whether all seven shootings were linked to the same gun.

The San Joaquin County's Office of the Medical Examiner on Monday released the Stockton victims' identities: Paul Yaw, 35, Salvador Debudey Jr. 43, Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, Juan Cruz, 52, and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54.

Police said investigators do not believe the victims were targeted for their race, The New York Times reported.

The city of Stockton is offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Stockton crime stoppers and a local construction company owner are offering an additional $10,000 each, according to police.

The conventional definition of a serial killer is someone who has murdered three or more people in incidents exhibiting commonalities.

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