Ballistics tests have linked the fatal shootings of six men and the wounding of one woman in California — all potentially at the hands of a serial killer — in crimes going back more than a year, police said.
Authorities last week announced that five men in Stockton had been slain in recent months, ambushed and shot to death alone in the dark. Late Monday, police said two additional cases last year — a man’s death in Oakland and the nonfatal shooting of a woman in Stockton — had been tied to those killings.
“It definitely meets the definition of a serial killer,” said Stockton Police Officer Joseph Silva. “What makes this different is the shooter is just looking for an opportunity, and unfortunately our victims were alone in a dark area.”
Although police would not say whether all seven shootings had been linked to the same gun, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden alluded to a single pistol during the news conference.
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“I have absolutely no answer as to why that pistol went dormant for over 400 days,” between the April 2021 shootings and the first case this summer, the chief said. “We don’t know what the motive is. What we do believe is that it’s mission-oriented. This person’s on a mission.”
In the fatal Stockton cases, none of the men was robbed or beaten before the killings, which all took place within a radius of a few square miles between July 8 and Sept. 27, and none appeared to have known one another, Silva said. The shootings also do not appear to be related to gangs or drugs.
In the nonfatal attack, the 46-year-old woman told investigators that she was inside her tent on April 16, 2021 at about 3:20 a.m. when she heard someone walking around outside.
“When she came out of her tent, she encountered someone holding a gun,” McFadden said.
The suspect fired multiple shots, wounding the woman, but she tried to defend herself by advancing toward her attacker, the chief said. The shooter lowered the gun.
“She said there were no words mentioned at all,” McFadden said.
The woman described the attacker as wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, dark-colored pants and an all-black COVID-style face mask.
The shooting death of a man in Oakland around 4:15 a.m. April 10, 2021, has also been connected to the violence in Stockton, police said. Juan Vasquez Serrano, 39, was shot multiple times, according to the Alameda County coroner’s bureau. It was not immediately clear whether the man was also unaccompanied when he was killed.
“We’re just going to say that we do have ballistic evidence that interconnects these cases,” said McFadden. “We don’t want to go into depth on that because we don’t want to affect this investigation.”
The city of Stockton, Stockton Crime Stoppers and a local construction company owner offered a total of $125,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Police released a grainy still image of a “person of interest,” dressed all in black and wearing a black cap, who appeared in videos from several of the homicide crime scenes in Stockton.
“When you all see the video I want you to pay close attention to uneven stride,” said Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden. “We also want you to notice just how upright this person’s posture is.”
The San Joaquin County Office of the Medical Examiner identified the Stockton victims on Monday as Paul Yaw, 35, who was killed July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, who died Aug. 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, who died Aug. 30; Juan Cruz, 52, who was killed Sept. 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54.Police: Five killings may be work of serial killerA serial killer may have ambushed five men in central California separately in recent months, shooting them to death alone in the dark, and police are baffled as to why the victims were targeted.
Lopez was shot shortly before 2 a.m. Sept. 27 in a residential area just north of downtown.
There may even be multiple people involved in the violence.
“To be honest, we just don’t know,” Silva said. “This person or people who are out doing this, they are definitely very bold and brazen.”
Police said four of the Stockton homicide victims were walking alone and a fifth was in a parked car when they were killed in the evening or early morning in the city of 320,000 residents, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the state capital, Sacramento.
“There is no singular profile of a serial murderer although there’s many different types. We have to wait and see until we get a little more information to go on," said Dr. Louis Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at John Hay College. “Generally speaking, most offenders commit crimes in areas where they feel comfortable, so it’s very likely somebody in this area.”