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Police raise information reward in Stockton, California, series of killings to $115,000

<i>Stockton Police Department</i><br/>Two more shootings are linked to a series of recent homicides in Stockton
Stockton Police Department
Stockton Police Department
Two more shootings are linked to a series of recent homicides in Stockton

By Holly Yan, Chris Boyette and Taylor Romine, CNN

The reward for information leading to an arrest in the killings of six people in a series of shooting deaths in Stockton, California, has been raised to $115,000, police said.

Stockton Police have said they believe the attacks, which include one non-fatal shooting, are related, and on Tuesday released surveillance video of a “person of interest,” emphasizing that the person is not seen committing any crimes on camera.

The person in the video has a specific, uneven stride and upright posture, which made them identifiable in the video surveillance they’ve recovered, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden said.

Investigators also have ballistic evidence that connects the six homicides and one attempted homicide, according to McFadden. He would not elaborate on what the ballistic evidence is.

While this evidence shows some connection, McFadden said it is not clear if the attacks have been carried out by one person or multiple people.

“By definition, these shootings are a series of killings, so we do believe we could have a potential serial killer, that’s how we are going to treat it, as such,” McFadden said.

“At this time, we don’t know if it is a person or persons. As I said before, we have absolutely no evidence that connects a person or persons to any of these incidents.” the chief said.

Stockton police had said they believed five homicides in the city between July 8 and September 27 are related.

Then two predawn shootings from 2021 also were tied to the prior string of homicides, Stockton police announced Monday night on Facebook:

— On April 10, 2021, a 40-year-old Hispanic man was shot to death in Oakland, California.

— On April 16, 2021, a 46-year-old Black woman was shot at Park and Union streets in Stockton; she survived.

Police posted an image on Facebook showing the back of a person dressed in all black whom they said might be linked to the investigation.

It’s not clear whether or why the victims were targeted. Among the five victims in this year’s connected homicides, four were Hispanic men ranging from 21 to 54 years old, and the fifth was a 35-year-old White man, police have said.

There is no clear motive so far, McFadden said. While this suspect does appear “mission-motivated,” there is no evidence at this time these are hate crimes, he said.

The woman who survived described the suspect as being between 5’10” and 6′ wearing dark clothing and a dark Covid-style mask, McFadden said. She told police that she was in her tent when she heard sounds outside. She stepped outside where she encountered someone holding a gun at her and who then then shot at her, McFadden said. The person did not say anything to her, he added.

The San Joaquin County’s Office of the Medical Examiner identified five of the victims on Monday: Paul Yaw, 35, killed on July 8; Salvador Debudey Jr., 43, killed on August 11; Jonathan Hernandez Rodriguez, 21, killed on August 30; Juan Cruz, 52, killed on September 21; and Lawrence Lopez Sr., 54, killed on September 27.

It’s also not clear whether one or more assailants were involved. But the gaps in time between shootings mean a killer may “be mature and somewhat patient,” CNN Law Enforcement Analyst John Miller said.

“Given past cases and offender characteristics, it is likely that he goes ‘hunting’ much more often than he kills,” Miller said.

“He likely ‘hunts’ regularly and strikes when everything is just right: single victim, no witnesses in the immediate area, likely an area without video coverage.”

Indeed, Stockton police don’t have video footage of the five connected homicides this year, they’ve said.

“We have a series of homicides that we believe are interconnected,” McFadden told reporters last week. “The problem we have is we have no evidence to tell us that it’s one person, two or three… We have no video footage that has even captured a crime, that has even captured a handgun in someone’s hand.”

The five killings this year were not related to robberies or gang activity in the area, McFadden said Friday.

“It wasn’t a robbery. Items aren’t being stolen. They’re not talking about any gang activity in the area or anything,” the police chief said. “It’s just element of surprise.”

Each victim was alone and shot either in the evening or early morning hours, police said.

“Please do not fall victim, be alert, have your head on a swivel, stay where it’s lit, communicate,” McFadden said. “We need you, we need your help, we need your tips, and we need you to help not to spread misinformation.”

The reward was raised by $20,000 from the $95,000 offered Monday.

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CNN’s Mary Anne Fox, Stella Chan, Hannah Sarisohn, Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon and Kathryn Jaeger contributed to this report.

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