Police track down a possible serial killer in central California | International

Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden briefs the press on findings that have connected multiple homicides.
Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden briefs the press on findings that have connected multiple homicides.Rich Pedroncelli (AP)

The image hardly says anything. The silhouette of what appears to be a man appears in motion. The left foot in front of the right, in what is a calm march. His pants are black. The jacket too. A cap covers the head, making it even more difficult to identify a generic figure. The police in the city of Stockton, east of San Francisco, have declared this figure a “person of interest”, as they could provide information on seven shootings, six of them fatal, that occurred between April 2021 and September 27 in the central California state. “We believe that he is a potential serial killer. And that’s how we’re going to treat it,” Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Tuesday about the suspected perpetrator of these crimes.

Stockton authorities announced last week that five homicides recorded between July 8 and September 27 are linked. All the victims were men between the ages of 21 and 54, who were killed with a firearm in incidents that occurred late at night or early in the morning. This Tuesday, the police added another crime to the list of the same suspect. This is a murder committed on April 10, 2021 in Oakland, 120 kilometers west of Stockton. This would be the first homicide perpetrated by the alleged serial killer south of the Calaveras River, which serves as a natural border for the city of 300,000 inhabitants. Until this Monday, Stockton had registered 43 murders, eleven more than in all of 2021.

McFadden stated that the police’s conclusions are based on evidence found by forensic experts who have attended multiple crime scenes and on some fragments recorded by security cameras. The police chief, however, did not provide further details at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, where a few-second video was revealed of the suspect walking in what appears to be an apartment building corridor. The police have not explained if this subject is wanted in his role as suspect or witness.

Three of the six victims were homeless, the police chief added. “These are people who are caught off guard,” McFadden said Friday. The great mystery that the police are now trying to solve is what happened so that the murderer returned to kill after 400 days without using his weapon. For now, the police have asked Stocktonians to travel alone late at night and to stay in the best-lit areas of the city.

The silhouette of the declared subject "person of interest" by Stockton Police.
The silhouette of the subject declared a “person of interest” by the Stockton police.AP

In addition to the 40-year-old man’s death in Oakland, authorities suspect the same gun was used in a non-lethal attack on a 46-year-old homeless woman from Stockton. This incident occurred on April 16, 2021 at 3:20 a.m. At that time, the woman heard that someone was lurking around her tent and went out to see who she was. She saw a thick black jacket and the face of a person hidden with a mask against the coronavirus. The subject pulled out his gun and began shooting. The woman saved her life.

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“We don’t know what the motive for these homicides could be,” McFadden said this week. Beyond the geographic coincidence, the victims had nothing in common. Five of the six victims were of Latino origin, but the murders have occurred in an entity where 40% of the population identifies with this group. None of the victims was robbed. Authorities have also not linked these crimes to gang violence or drug gangs.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office identified Juan Miguel Vasquez Serrano, 40, as the victim on April 10, 2021 in Oakland. Some residents of the Seminario neighborhood, to the east of the city, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was an unemployed man who earned a few dollars repairing vehicles in the area. “He was a nice guy, really humble,” said a local who had come to him for repairs on a 1973 Buick.

Authorities have reported that the rest of the victims are Paul Yaw, 35; Salvador Debudey, 43; Jonathan Hernandez, 21; Juan Cruz, 52, and Lawrence Lopez, 54. Neither slaying was caught on city video cameras. The local police are being assisted by the FBI, the California Highway Police, the sheriff’s offices of neighboring cities and by the Federal Agency of Alcohol, Tobacco and Weapons. There is a $125,000 reward for information on the man who has brought terror to Stockton.

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