California police seek person responsible for five people dead in ‘a series of killings’

STOCKTON, Calif. — Police in Northern California said they are investigating a person of interest in connection with five similar fatal shootings that have occurred across the city of Stockton over the past two months.

Police shared a blurry image of the person of interest pulled from security camera video: it showed a thin person dressed in dark clothing and photographed from behind while walking.

There are currently no other suspects, Police Chief Stanley McFadden said Friday. Police cannot rule out the possibility that more than one person could be involved, according to McFadden.

The five shootings police are investigating as part of the pattern of homicides took place in the northern part of the city between July 8 and Sept. 27, according to a police department statement. The victims were men with ages ranging from 21-to-54. All the shootings took place in the morning.

Although four of the five victims were Hispanic, there is “no indication that these are hate crimes,” McFadden said. Some of the victims were homeless, he added.

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The motive behind the homicides is “not at all” clear to investigators yet, McFadden said, but police do not believe the killings are gang-related. 

The five fatal shootings occurred in dimly-lit areas overshadowed by trees, some close to apartment buildings, with no cameras, the police chief said. Investigators do not have video footage of any of the homicides in progress, or of a person of interest holding a gun, he said. 

“Either this person or persons are very lucky with choosing where they’re going, or they’re doing their homework to go to locations where they feel there’s no cameras,” McFadden said.

While referring to the killings as a “series of homicides,” McFadden stopped short of calling the perpetrator or perpetrators a serial killer.

“I don’t know what this person is,” he said of the person of interest whose photo was shared.

“We have a series of homicides (where) we have no evidence to tell if there are two or three” perpetrators, he said. 

“By definition, you probably could very well call this a serial killing.” Later he referred to them as “a series of killings.”

At a press conference Wednesday, McFadden stated emphatically that police “have been provided absolutely zero evidence that leads us to believe that one individual is running rampant in the city of Stockton killing people.” He said on Friday that he stood by his statement.

“At that time we had assumptions, but not facts. Now we know we have certain facts.” McFadden said he was briefed on the person of interest Friday morning.

Police have gone door to door in the neighborhoods where the homicides occurred to inform people about how to keep themselves safe.

On Friday McFadden reiterated earlier warnings to travel with a companion if you must go out at night but to stay indoors if possible.

“Factual information will be brought on a regular basis as the investigation permits,” he said. “We need to respect the survivors that have lost people to gun violence.”

“There are grieving families that are deeply touched by these homicides, and I want to bring closure to them.”

Follow Aaron Leathley on Twitter: @LeathleyAaron.