In the early hours of Oct. 15, Stockton police arrested a man who they say they believe is responsible for six slayings that have gripped the city.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton was stopped by police as he was driving near Village Green Drive and Winslow Way at about 2 a.m. Saturday, Police Chief Stanley McFadden said. Police allege Brownlee is responsible for seven nighttime shootings, six fatal, of people out alone at night in Stockton and Oakland dating back to 2021.
"We are sure we stopped another killing," McFadden said.
Between July 8 and Sept. 27, 2022, victims of five similar fatal shootings have been found in areas north of the Calaveras River and east of I-5 in Stockton, according to police.
A fatal shooting in Oakland and a nonfatal shooting in Stockton, both in April 2021, were also part of the attacks, police said.
Timeline of key dates in the series of slayings
• April 10, 2021: 40-year-old Juan Vazquez Serrano was fatally shot at about 4:18 a.m. in Oakland, the first death that police said they consider to be part of the serial killings.
The homicides occurred in isolated areas with no cameras when the victims were alone, according to McFadden. It is possible homicides other than those identified have also been part of the spree, he said.
• April 16, 2021: A 46-year-old Black woman was shot near Park and Union streets in Stockton at about 3:20 a.m. and survived her injuries.
• July 8, 2022: Police found 35-year-old Paul Yaw suffering from gunshot wounds at Holiday Park, near the 5600 block of Kermit Lane, at about 12:30 a.m. Yaw died of his wounds at a hospital.
• Aug. 11: 43-year-old Salvador Debudey Jr. died of gunshot wounds in the parking lot of Popeye's at 4966 West Lane.
• Aug. 30: Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, was found fatally shot in the 800 block of East Hammer Lane at about 6:41 a.m.
• Sept. 21: Police found 52-year-old Juan Cruz with gunshot wounds near the intersection of Manchester Avenue and Rosemarie Lane. Cruz died at the scene.
Sept. 27. — 54-year-old Lawrence Lopez Sr. died of gunshot wounds in the 900 block of Porter Avenue at about 1:51 a.m.
At about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 28, McFadden said at a news conference that police are investigating a pattern among recent homicides in which victims were killed while outdoors alone late at night.
Police began questioning whether there was a pattern to the homicides "about a month ago," or around the time of Rodriguez's death, McFadden said.
At the conference, the chief said, "We have been provided absolutely zero evidence that leads us to believe that one individual is running rampant in the city of Stockton killing people."
• Sept. 30: McFadden announced at a second news conference that police were investigating a person of interest and released a photo. A police spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Sept. 30 regarding when the photo was taken and when investigators obtained it. There were no other suspects, McFadden said.
Police also released publicly for the first time a list of cases they believed were part of the pattern of killings. The list included the killings of Yaw, Debudey Jr., Rodriguez, Cruz and Lopez Sr. between July 8 and Sept. 27.
The list did not include the slaying in Oakland and the nonfatal shooting in Stockton in April 2021.
At the Sept. 30 conference, McFadden said he stood by his statement two days earlier that police had no evidence of "one individual is running rampant in the city of Stockton killing people."
"At that time we had assumptions, but not facts," he said. "Now we know we have certain facts."
• Oct. 3: Police announced for the first time that they believed the April 10, 2021 homicide in Oakland and a nonfatal shooting on April 16 in Stockton were part of the pattern of killings.
Investigators determined that the two new cases were connected to the five known cases using ballistics testing, which showed that the same type of weapon was used, police spokesman officer Joseph Silva said.
"It definitely meets the definition of a serial killer," Silva said.
• Oct. 4: Police released security camera footage of the person of interest in serial killings in Stockton and Oakland and shared details of an encounter between the sole known survivor and the shooter that occurred last year.
"By definition, these shootings are (a) series of killings. So we do believe we have a potential serial killer," McFadden said. "That's how we're going to treat this ... at this time we don't know if it's a person or persons."
• Oct. 13: Stockton police visited homeless encampments distributing safety tips to residents amid the slayings.
"As we hope to get more leads ... I do hope some more [info] will come out, so we can start doing that profile-building, and know what the motive is," McFadden said during the visit.
• Oct. 14: On Oct. 13th and 14th, multiple media outlets reported that Stockton police had contacted Chicago police to determine if two homicides in 2018 in Chicago were linked to the California killings.
"Doing our due diligence, we ... contacted the Chicago PD, and based off of our investigation, we do not believe at this time that the cases are linked,” Silva said.
"We are aware of the Stockton Police Department investigations and are in contact with their detectives," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement. "At this time, we do not believe there is a link in these investigations."
• Oct. 15: Brownlee was taken into custody about 2 a.m. on Oct. 15 near Village Green Drive and Winslow Way, McFadden said. A police surveillance team followed Brownlee, who was in a car and wearing dark clothing with a dark mask around his neck.
"We have information that had got us to his place of residence," McFadden said. Then, investigators waited "until he became mobile."
Brownlee's residence "wasn't too far from one of our ... homicides," the police chief said.
Record reporter Aaron Leathley covers public safety. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LeathleyAaron. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Timeline: Key moments in investigation of Stockton killings