Police in California have finally put an end to the reign of terror suspected serial killer Wesley Brownlee unleashed upon the city of Stockton. In a little over a year’s time Brownlee would allegedly kill six men and shoot a seventh victim, a woman who survived. Stockton PD, with the help of local sheriff’s deputies and the FBI, linked five of the six murders, which occurred between July and September of 2022, by ballistic testing and surveillance videos near the crime scenes. After realizing one perpetrator was responsible for all 5 murders, police widened their search area and connected the sixth murder and the surviving shooting victim. The murderer wasn’t selective about the type of victims he chose, crossing racial and gender lines, killing young and old alike; however, each victim was out alone, late at night, on an empty dark street. These were crimes of opportunity, and Brownlee went to great links to not be tied to the murders. Despite the efforts he took, neighbors alerted police to the area where Wesley lived, which happened to be within 2 miles of 6 of the 7 crime scenes. Authorities were then able to narrow their scope to Brownlee. He was arrested in the early morning hours of October 15th, and police believe he was out stalking the streets for his next victim at the time.
Brownlee’s rampage began 70 miles away from his home in Stockton, CA, in Oakland. Juan Vasquez Serrano was a 39-year-old Hispanic man; he worked as a mechanic-for-hire and was well liked by the people who knew him. On April 10, 2021, Serrano was shot at 4:18 AM on Harmon Ave. His daughter would tell police Serrano was homeless. There were no witnesses to the shooting, instead, Oakland Police Department was alerted to the shooting by the city’s ShotSpotter, a gunshot audio detection system. However, once police arrived the shooter was gone from the area. Serrano was pronounced dead on arrival.
The next shooting happened closer to home and would begin his crime spree in Stockton. Natasha LaTour, a 46-year-old Black woman, was shot 10 times. Natasha miraculously survived the shooting and was able to give police details about the crime. She explained she was standing alone next to a set of railroad tracks when she saw the shooter approach her. The person didn’t come extremely close to her, instead, she saw the muzzle fire and felt the blood rushing over her body. Natasha said she knew she had to get closer to the street if she had a chance at surviving the attack, so she rushed the shooter; first running towards him and then past him. She said the shooter spun, dropped down to one knee, and kept firing towards her as she ran.
Sadly, initially, police brushed off the shooting as drug related, assuming because she was homeless, she must be a criminal and must have done something to prompt the shooting. It’s impossible to say that the other murders could have all been prevented, however, in this case it seems like if police had taken her version of the crime a little more seriously maybe at least some of the subsequent murders could have been thwarted.
The third shooting would happen almost a year later, in July of 2022. Paul Yaw, 35, was shot multiple times just after midnight as he walked down a dark street in Stockton. Less than a month later Brownlee would claim another victim. 43-year-old Salvador Debudey Jr, a Hispanic man who had been married to his wife for twelve years and was a father. He was shot and killed just after 10 PM. Salvador was homeless at the time of the murder.
It would only be two weeks before the next victim met his fate. On August 30th Brownlee attacked his youngest victim. Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, just 21 years old, was sitting in his parked car on a dark street when Brownlee opened fire on him. He was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene.
The fifth murder would happen on September 21st, when Juan Cruz, a 52-year-old Hispanic man was gunned down at 4:30 AM on a dark Stockton street. The final murder took place just a few days later. Lawrence Lopez Sr, 54, a father and a grandfather, was shot and killed in the early morning hours of September 27th. This is when police were able to connect the murders through the ballistic results and surveillance videos and announced to the public they believed they were looking for a serial killer.
Natasha’s description of her attacker was an average sized man dressed in all black, with a mask and a hoodie covering most of his face, thereby obscuring any distinguishing features. She said the attacker never spoke to her, and she wasn’t sure about race or age, or anything specific. One of the murders happened just outside of an apartment complex, and police were able to obtain surveillance footage from the complex. The man they saw in that video matched the description of the man that shot Natasha. Per the video the man looked to be average height and weight, was dressed in all black, and had most of his face covered by a mask and a black hoodie. Authorities widely circulated that surveillance video upon announcing the search for the serial killer.
Tips poured into police and neighbors of Brownlee’s were among them. Although none of them named him specifically, the police were alerted to the general area of his residence. After conducting their own surveillance, Stockton police were drawn to Wesley Brownlee. They ended up following him, and on the evening of Saturday, October 15th they believed they were witnessing Brownlee searching for his next victim. It was just after 2 am, and Brownlee appeared to be driving back and forth through dark, deserted neighborhoods. It was obvious that he didn’t have a specific destination in mind, and police decided he was searching for someone out walking on the street alone. They initiated a traffic stop and pulled Wesley out of the car. Upon searching his vehicle, a gun was located, although it’s unclear if it’s the same gun used in the crimes. Police arrested Brownlee and he has been charged with three counts of murder-the last three victims, among other charges, such as a felon in possession of a firearm. He is currently being held without bond.
Authorities have commented that a “ghost gun” was used in the first three murders. Ghost guns refer to guns that have no serial numbers and cannot be traced. They can be purchased online in a “kit” and assembled at home. Without being able to trace the ballistics of those first three murders back to Brownlee, police are currently in the process of trying to find other evidence to link him to the first three victims.
Brownlee is considered innocent until proven guilty, and he has so far not said anything to police. He immediately asked for a lawyer and refused to be interviewed. Stockton PD has made remarks that Brownlee was very smart, and knew exactly what he needed to do to not be caught.
Shooting survivor Natasha LaTour, 46
5 of the 6 victims (Juan Vasquez not pictured)
Suspected serial killer Wesley Brownlee
Gun that was found on Wesley Brownlee the night of his arrest
Surveillance photo outside one of the crime scenes that was circulated during the search for the killer.
Suspected Wesley Brownlee's criminal history