Police officers in Northern California believe they prevented another murder after arresting a ‘potential serial killer’ Saturday suspected of murdering six men and wounding a woman over the last 18 months in a string of late-night shootings.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton, was arrested on homicide allegations, according to Stockton Police Department officials.
During a news conference, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said officers arrested Brownlee in two parts: 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.
McFadden said officers took the dark-clothed suspect — who was carrying a firearm and wearing a mask draped around his neck — into custody after making contact around 2 a.m. on Saturday. After following the suspect drive around parks and other dark places where he would stop and look around before moving again, authorities “identified that he’s posing a threat.”
“He was out hunting,” McFadden said. “We are sure we stopped another killing.”
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar echoed the police chief’s sentiments saying, “the crime was solved because we’re Stocktonians.”
“Because you don’t come to our house and bring this kind of reign of terror and not mobilize 350,000 people — 780,000, this whole entire county — mobilized, mobilized and captured this individual whose reign of terror is no longer,” Salazar said.
Authorities suspect Brownlee — who has a ‘criminal history — of allegedly murdering six people and wounding a woman as far 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 of one another, according to KCRA.
According to the local media, public records show Brownlee had drug and traffic violations — including a DUI — in Arizona and California.
McFadden told CNN that all seven victims were “alone, often caught off guard, or maybe relaxing in a vehicle or walking alone in almost pitch darkness” when attacked in the evening or early morning.
CNN reports that according to jail records, Brownlee was being held in the county jail on Saturday without bail and that authorities confirmed he would be arraigned in court Tuesday afternoon.
“Just because an arrest was made does not mean the investigation stops,” McFadden said, later adding, “the work is not done, though, as this is still a very active investigation.”
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 reported in August that Stockton had seen 34 homicides in 2022 — an increase from the 26 homicides it saw 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 the SPOA.