STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — A man suspected of killing six men and wounding a woman in Northern California was arrested before dawn Saturday as he was apparently searching for another victim, police said.
Acting on tips and police work, investigators tracked and watched a man and stopped him in a car at about 2 a.m. in Stockton, where five of the shootings took place, Police Chief Stanley McFadden said at a news conference.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, of Stockton, was dressed in black, had a mask around his neck, had a gun and “was out hunting,” McFadden said.
“We are sure we stopped another killing,” he added.
Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln told NewsNation it was not clear who Brownlee was targeting or what his motives were yet.
“What we do know is we wouldn’t have been able to make this arrest today and be at the point we’re at right now without the help of the community,” Lincoln said. “Also, without the help and assistance of our multi-agency task force, this is a big win for the community, and we call all sleep a little better tonight.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Brownlee had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Police had been searching for a man clad in black who was caught on video at several of the crime scenes in Stockton, where five men were ambushed and shot to death between July 8 and Sept. 27. Four were walking, and one was in a parked car.
“When I received the call today it was a call that allowed me to take a deep breath and I’ll be honest with you, I got a little emotional because this is what our team of professionals, our law enforcement personnel, those men and women who are sworn to protect and serve our community, this is what they’re trained to do and they executed,” Lincoln said.
Police believe the same person was responsible for killing a man 70 miles away in Oakland in April 2021 and wounding a homeless woman in Stockton a week later.
Investigators have said ballistics tests and video evidence linked the crimes.
Authorities said they received hundreds of tips after announcing the manhunt.
No suspected motive for the attacks was given, but McFadden said the killer appeared to be “on a mission.” Police said some victims were homeless, but not all. None were beaten or robbed, and the woman who survived said her attacker didn’t say anything.
The FBI and various police agencies, including in Chicago, helped in the investigation, McFadden said.
Local investigators had also worked with police in Chicago to determine whether the killings might be linked to two 2018 murders in that city’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Authorities said videos of suspects showed a man in black with a distinctive walk.
However, Chicago police said Friday that there didn’t appear to be any link.