A serial killer might be behind 6 shooting deaths in California, police say
Stockton police say they have connected a 2021 homicide in Oakland and a nonfatal shooting in Stockton to a “series of killings” in the Central California city.
The Stockton Police Department announced last week that five fatal shootings reported between July 8 and Sept. 27 were related. On Tuesday, they said a sixth fatal shooting last year in Oakland and a nonfatal shooting in Stockton are also connected.
All of the people killed were men, and they were shot in the late-night or early-morning hours, with no signs of robbery, police said. Five of the six were Latino, according to police.
“It’s just people caught by surprise,” Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Friday at a news conference.
The Stockton victims were identified as:
- A 35-year-old white man killed at 12:31 a.m. on July 8 in the 5600 block of Kermit Lane.
- A 43-year-old Latino man killed at 9:49 p.m. on Aug. 11 in the 4900 block of West Lane.
- A 21-year-old Latino man killed at 6:41 a.m. on Aug. 30 in the 800 block of East Hammer Lane.
- A 52-year-old Latino man killed at 4:27 a.m. on Sept. 21 in the 4400 block of Manchester Avenue.
- A 54-year-old Latino man killed at 1:53 a.m. on Sept. 27 in the 900 block of Porter Avenue.
On Monday, police said that a fatal shooting in April 2021 of a 40-year-old Latino man in Oakland was linked to the current string of homicides. Like the shootings in Stockton, it was in the early morning, at 4:18 a.m., police said.
Four members of a Merced family whose abduction was captured on surveillance video have been found dead, authorities confirmed.
A nonfatal shooting of a 46-year-old Black woman in Stockton, also reported in April 2021, at 3:20 a.m., was also related, police said.
Police don’t know “why that pistol went dormant” for more than 400 days between the 2021 shootings and this year’s incidents, McFadden said at a news conference Tuesday.
McFadden showed surveillance video of an individual he described as a “person of interest” in the case. Police have obtained surveillance footage from multiple shootings that appears to show the same person near the scene, McFadden said.
In the video, what appears to be a tall, male figure in a cap and dark clothing strides past the camera.
Police did not say whether the person was considered a suspect or witness.
“We don’t know what the motive is,” McFadden said, noting that victims have been both male and female, housed and unhoused, and of multiple races. “What we do believe is that it’s mission oriented. This person is on a mission. Just appears to be very fluid and intentional.”
Alexander Hernandez, 42, was found guilty in May of five counts of murder with special circumstances.
The string of killings in Stockton has made the community of just over 322,000 uneasy.
“I went to a doughnut shop this morning, and it was dark and, you know ... people are talking to each other,” Ines Ruiz-Huston, a Stockton resident and vice president of the Latino outreach organization El Concilio California, said in an interview.
“They’re like, ‘What’s going on? It’s getting scary to walk,’” Ruiz-Huston said.
People are concerned, Ruiz-Huston said, about their fathers, husbands, sons and others who fit the profile of the majority of victims: Latino men.
“A lot of young people are worried about their dads because their dads are the ones that leave early in the morning or get home super late from work here, especially in this community,” Ruiz-Huston said.
While alarming, the situation has made people take care of one another and has made people more aware of their surroundings, Ruiz-Huston said.
Five Stockton homicides since July are related, police say. “It’s just people caught by surprise,” said Police Chief Stanley McFadden.
El Concilio has changed some its practices, bringing staff members back indoors earlier in the day, before sunset.
“We do door-to-door knocking, doing educational information and outreach, and so we shifted just a little bit, so we’re not out in the dark,” Ruiz-Huston said.
The announcement that the six killings are related was surprising to Robert Schug, a neurocriminologist, forensic psychologist and professor at Cal State Long Beach.
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, we haven’t had one of these in a while,’” Schug said in an interview. “I think that’s kind of what everyone else is maybe picking up on too, is that we’ve been focused on mass murders, school shootings and that sort of thing.”
Whether the person responsible for the killings should be dubbed a serial killer will depend on the evidence, he said.
“It’s very important to pay attention to the victimology, who the victims are; that can also tell us a lot,” he said. “I think, ultimately, that with serial killers what we see with consistency is that the victims tend to be from vulnerable populations.”
The late-night and early-morning hours “make an individual somewhat vulnerable,” he said.
A $95,000 reward is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest, authorities said. The sum includes $10,000 donated anonymously from a Stockton-area business owner.
“You’re empowered right now to submit information that you may know that leads to the arrest of an individual or individuals who are responsible for these murders,” Stockton Mayor Kevin J. Lincoln II said at the news conference Tuesday.
Last week, McFadden said authorities were struggling to get enough witnesses to come forward.
“I can’t say it enough,” he said Friday. “We need [the public’s] help.
“We really don’t know how things are playing out just because of a lack of witnesses,” McFadden said. “I can’t say it enough: We need [the public’s] help.”
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