Five Stockton residents and now an Oakland man have been identified as the victims of a possible Northern California serial killer, with the fatal shootings beginning last year and continuing through late September, authorities said.
"We do believe we could have a potential serial killer," Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden told reporters at a news conference earlier this week. All of the victims were shot.
Police say they believe an East Oakland murder and a non-fatal shooting of a Stockton woman last year appeared to be linked to a series of fatal shootings in the Central California city that occurred between July 8 and Sept. 27.
The Oakland shooting occurred on April 10, 2021, near 57th and Harmon avenues in East Oakland, according to the Oakland Police Department. Responding officers found Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 39, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Six days later, a Black woman camping outside was shot and wounded near Park Street and Union Street in Stockton, according to police. The victim told police she heard someone outside her tent and when she emerged she was shot. The woman described the suspect as a man between 5 feet 10 and 6 feet, with a "thin build" and wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, a COVID-style mask and dark-colored pants.
The San Joaquin County medical examiner's office has identified the five Stockton victims:
35-year-old Paul Alexander Yaw, killed July 8 in the 5600 block of Kermit Lane.
43-year-old Salvador Debudey Jr., killed Aug. 11 in the 4900 block of West Lane.
21-year-old Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, killed Aug. 30 in the 800 block of East Hammer Lane.
52-year-old Juan Cruz, killed Sept. 21 in the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue.
54-year-old Lawrence Lopez Sr., killed Sept. 27 in the 900 block of Porter Avenue.
Authorities don't know exactly how many suspects are involved but have released surveillance video of a "person of interest" in the case. Footage from multiple shootings appear to show the same person near the scene but police haven't uncovered any evidence connecting the person to any of the incidents, according to McFadden.
"We don't know what the motive is. What we do believe is that it's mission-oriented," he said. "This person's on a mission."
Five of the six men killed were Latino and were shot after dark without any signs of robbery, McFadden said, adding that victims have been male and female of different races and both unhoused and housed.
"It wasn't a robbery," he said. "Items aren't being stolen. They're not talking about any gang activity in the area or anything. It's just the element of surprise."
Police said they don't have any specific information to indicate that the shootings were motivated by hate. McFadden also said he doesn't have an answer for why the shootings stopped for more than 400 days between the April 2021 shootings and September of this year.
A reward of $125,000 is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest, according to authorities. The chief urged the public to be extremely cautious while the search continues for the suspect or suspects involved.
"All the time we say be aware of your surroundings," he said. "All the time we say if you're going to be alone in the dark, be with someone else. All the time we say try to be in lighted conditions. My advice would be just follow that. If you do that, it's very unlikely that you will encounter this person or persons."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.