City officials in Stockton, California on Tuesday released seconds-long footage of a slender figure with an uneven gait and unusually upright posture who police would like to question in connection with the shootings of seven people in and around the port city.
Six men have been shot dead under cover of darkness while alone in dimly-lit areas since April 2021, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Tuesday. One victim was white, but the rest were Hispanic males.
Chief McFadden also said that police had been able to interview a seventh victim - a homeless woman who survived an attack by what is believed to be the same perpetrator last April.
The woman, who the chief described as a “light-complected” black woman, was in her tent when she heard noises outside, he said.
“She heard someone walking around her campsite; when she came out of her tent, she encountered someone holding a gun” who then shot her, Chief McFadden said.
The female victim, who has not been indentified, described the suspect as “between 5’10 and six foot, wearing all dark clothing, wearing a dark covid-style mask that was concealing his face,” the chief said, adding that the suspect was “wearing a dark jacket as well.”
The shooter said nothing, he added, and there have been no witnesses or CCTV footage from any of the scenes.
He said ballistics had matched all of the crimes and investigators were uncertain of motive, despite the majority of victims being Hispanic males. He said some were homeless and some were not.
“What we do believe is that it’s mission-oriented,” Chief McFadden said. “This person’s on a mission ... [that] appears to be very fluid and intentional in what that one person or people are doing.”
He advised residents of Stockton to avoid going out alone at night and to stay in well-lit areas.
“I would say everyone’s at risk,” he said. A reward for information leading to an arrest has been increased within a day from $85,000 to $115,000 as residents and businesses scramble for answers.
The shootings that sparked serial killer fears among the community and investigators began on 8 July, when 35-year-old Paul Alexander Yaw was found fatally wounded at a park in the north of the city. His mother, nurse Greta Bogrow, described the father-of-one on Facebook as a “sweet boy who grew into a man with a big heart.
Two weeks after his murder, she appealed on social media for information, though she admitted she was “hesitant” but wanted to “find the person responsible and hold them accountable.”
On 11 August, Salvador William Debudey Jr, 43, was shot dead in a parking lot along a commercial stretch with strip malls and fast-food joints. Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, was killed 19 days later; on 21 September, yet another man out alone at night, 52-year-old Juan Cruz, was shot dead at 4.27am.
Six days later, 52-year-old Lorenzo Lopez was found dead on the sidewalk of a primarily residential area.
For the first time on Friday, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said at a press conference that investigators believed the killings were “interconnected.”
“By definition, you could probably very well call this serial killings,” he said.
Police said the victims had been ambushed but had not been robbed, and the killings were not believed to be gang-related. They released a screen grab of a suspect in the deaths, which occurred in dimly lit locations, either late at night or in the early morning hours, where cameras failed to capture any of the crimes taking place.
Following the initial Friday press conference, police said Monday that two shootings from April 2021 had also been linked to the same perpetrator or perpetrators - the shooting of the unnammed survivor and the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old Hispanic man on 10 April 2021, in Oakland, about an hour away from Stockton, at 4.18am.