Formal charges have been filed against Wesley Brownlee in a series of recent killings in Stockton, California, San Joaquin County prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
Brownlee, 43, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Jonathan Rodriguez Hernandez, Juan Carlos Carranza-Cruz and Lawrence Lopez.
Brownlee also faces weapon and ammunition charges. He was not asked to enter a plea and is being held without bail.
CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment.
“We charged the cases today because we believe we have sufficient evidence to pursue these charges and prove them beyond a reasonable doubt,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said at a news conference. “We are also confident that additional charges will be added. We would like to remind the public that this investigation is ongoing.”
Special circumstances could allow for Brownlee to face life in prison without parole, or possibly the death penalty, if convicted – although the state has a moratorium on capital punishment.
When Brownlee was arrested Saturday, Stockton police linked him to seven shootings – the three he was charged with Tuesday, two killings and another shooting in Stockton, and a slaying in Oakland, which is in Alameda County.
Salazar addressed the other shootings in her county, saying charging decisions in those cases will be made in the “coming weeks.”
She said a gun recovered during Brownlee’s arrest is of similar caliber to the weapon used in the six homicides.
And “we can confirm with high confidence the same gun was used in the (three) homicides being charged,” she told reporters.
Brownlee had been working as an interstate truck driver who recently moved to Stockton from Oakland, Salazar said, but she didn’t share whether he knew any of the victims.
Brownlee’s next court date was scheduled for November 14.
Stockton police have said the killings of five men in Stockton and one in Oakland, and the wounding of a woman in Stockton occurred from April 2021 to late last month.
Brownlee was hunting for someone else to harm when he was taken into custody in Stockton around 2 a.m. Saturday, clad in dark clothing with a mask around his neck and armed with a firearm, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Saturday
“He was on a mission to kill. He was out hunting,” McFadden said Saturday. “We are sure we stopped another killing.”
Working off tips from the public, a surveillance team was following Brownlee as he drove around parks and dark places, “stopping, looking around and moving again,” McFadden said. The team watched his patterns and arrested him after they “identified that he’s posing a threat,” said the chief.
Lopez’s brother said Tuesday that whatever the outcome is for Brownlee, it will “never equal to what he did.”
“Only God can judge him,” Jerry Lopez told reporters outside the courthouse when asked whether the alleged killer should face life in prison or the death penalty.
“I can’t judge him… We leave it in God’s hands,” he said.
Lopez described his younger brother as a “good man.”
According to Lopez’s family, the victim was homeless, but despite the circumstances, he went out of his way to assist other homeless people.
Lopez’s mother, Pauline Lopez, echoed the sentiments. “He was a wonderful man,” she said.
“No matter what, my son, I’ll never get him back,” she said. “I’m just heartbroken, just so heartbroken.”
Stockton police early this month initially announced they believed five killings in the city between July 8 and September 27 were related.
A couple days later, they announced they believed two shootings from 2021 also were tied to the other five – the killing of a 40-year-old Hispanic man in Oakland on April 10, 2021; and the wounding of a 46-year-old Black woman in Stockton six days later.
Investigators have ballistic evidence that connects the six homicides and one attempted homicide, McFadden said earlier this month. Each victim was alone and shot either in the evening or early morning, police said.
Authorities are still investigating the motive in the shootings. Victims included both housed and unhoused people, according to McFadden.
Among the victims in this year’s killings, four were Hispanic men ranging from 21 to 54 years old, and the fifth was a 35-year-old White man, police have said.
The victims of this year’s killings were identified by San Joaquin County’s medical examiner as: Paul Yaw, 35, killed on July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, killed on August 11; Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, killed on August 30; Cruz, 52, killed on September 21; and Lopez, 54, killed on September 27.
In an interview with police, the woman who was shot in April 2021 said she heard someone walking around her campsite and came out to find her attacker holding a gun on her. The person fired multiple shots, wounding her, as she tried to defend herself, McFadden said during a news conference last week.
She told police her attacker said nothing and wore dark clothing and a dark Covid-style mask, according to the chief.
All seven shootings happened in dark areas where there weren’t many cameras. The victims were “alone, often caught off guard, or maybe relaxing in a vehicle or walking alone in almost pitch darkness,” McFadden told CNN’s Kasie Hunt earlier this month.
Stockton is a city of about 322,000 people roughly a 45-mile drive southeast of Sacramento.