Three days after Stockton police officers arrested a “potential serial killer” for allegedly murdering six men and wounding a woman over the last 18 months, authorities charged the suspect Tuesday with three counts of murder and firearms offenses.
Stockton Police Department officials took Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton, into custody around 2 a.m. Saturday for allegedly stalking a potential victim near a city park Saturday night, The Los Angeles Times reports.
According to San Joaquin County Superior Court records, authorities charged Brownlee for allegedly murdering Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez on August 30, Juan Cruz on September 21, and Lawrence Lopez Sr. on September 27.
Authorities did not charge Brownlee for the fatal shooting of Paul Alexander Yaw on July 8 or Salvador Debudey Jr. on August 11, the Times reports. Although, police said those cases and two others in 2021 were linked to the other deaths. Authorities allegedly identified the murders through ballistic evidence.
During a news conference, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said officers were able to arrest Brownlee due to community tips and “good old-fashioned police work.”
“Based on tips coming to the department’s Stockton Crimestoppers, were we able to zero in on a possible suspect,” McFadden said. “Our surveillance team followed this person while he was driving … watched his pattern and determined early this morning.”
“He was on a mission to kill,” McFadden added. “He was out hunting — we are sure we stopped another killing.”
Authorities suspected Brownlee — who has a “criminal history” — of allegedly murdering six people and wounding a woman as far back as April 2021. While two of the seven homicides happened last year, the remaining shootings happened between July and September. Most of the deadly shootings happened in Stockton within a four-mile radius.
Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said public safety in the city is their number one priority.
“I want to make this very very clear to the people of Stockton, to the United States, and around the world. When the people of Stockton come together and we unite, we can get things done,” Lincoln said. “Stockton will be a place where people can live, raise a family and grow a business.”
ABC 10 reported in August that Stockton had seen 34 homicides in 2022 — an increase from the 26 homicides it saw at the same time last year.
Stockton Police Officers Association (SPOA) told the media outlet that the rise in crime is directly connected to fewer uniformed officers on the streets.
“With a shortage of over 100 officers, almost 20% of our staffing not here any longer and leaving more by the day, it’s emboldened the criminal element because they don’t see those uniform patrol officers on the street. They don’t see as many police officers out there,” said Patrick High, president of SPOA.
The Times reported Brownlee was scheduled to appear in court for arraignment Tuesday afternoon.