This booking photo provided by the Stockton Police Department shows Wesley Brownlee, from Stockton, Calif., who was arrested Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in connection to a series of shootings.
Manny Otiko | California Black Media | October 24, 2022
Wesley Brownlee, a Bay Area native, is being held on murder charges by Stockton police. He is a suspect in a string of murders in Stockton and Oakland.
According to news reports, local police have long suspected a serial killer was operating in the area. The serial killer is suspected of being responsible for at least six murders. One of the victims was shot but survived.
Brownlee, who lives in Stockton, has a history of drug arrests. According to juvenile court records, Brownlee lost a brother to gun violence. After this incident, he showed signs of mental and emotional distress.
Acting on a tip, local police and other law enforcement agencies began surveilling Brownlee.
He was arrested while scouting for new victims. When he was taken into custody, Brownlee was dressed in black clothing and was carrying a pistol and a mask.
“Our surveillance team followed this person while he was driving. We watched his patterns and determined early this morning he was on a mission to kill,” said Stockton police Chief Stanley McFadden during a press conference. “He was out hunting.”
California State Attorney General Rob Bonta praised the Stockton Police Department and other law officers for removing a dangerous criminal from the streets.
“I am grateful for the work of the Stockton Police Department and law enforcement agencies who lent their support to this investigation, including the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms and Bureau of Forensic Services,” Bonta said in a press release.
However, there seems to be no pattern to the murders. Four of the victims were Latino, and one was a White male. The lone survivor was a Black woman. Several victims were homeless.
According to FBI profilers, most serial killers are White males. But a few of them have been African American and people of color.
For example, Los Angeles-based serial killer Richard Ramirez, known as the “Night Stalker,” was Hispanic, and Lonnie David Franklin Jr., dubbed “the Grim Sleeper,” was African American.
Franklin was responsible for at least 10 murders. He was called the Grim Sleeper because he appeared to go dormant and then become active again at intervals during his killing spree, which lasted three decades.
Franklin mainly targeted women in the South-Central area of Los Angeles. Most of his victims were sex workers. Several local residents complained that police didn’t take the killing seriously. Franklin died in prison.
According to FBI records, Samuel Little, an African American, is considered the most prolific serial killer. He claimed responsibility for 93 murders, 50 confirmed by the FBI.
According to police records, Little operated in Los Angeles and parts of Los Angeles County at one point. But before dying in
prison in 2020 at the age of 80, prosecutors planned to tie him to murders in at least 14 states. He was serving a life sentence.
The Lookout: Four California Criminal Justice Reform Laws That Took Effect This Year
Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media | June 7, 2022
President Joe Biden signed a federal policing accountability executive order based on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 authored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37).
Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden signed a federal policing accountability executive order based on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 authored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37). That action supplements other criminal justice reforms affecting Californians that took place this year. Several other criminal justice reforms at the state level went into effect in January.
Here is a rundown highlighting four of those laws, detailing what they do, and recounting what California legislators have said about them.
Senate Bill (SB) 317 allows conduct credits to be earned while an individual who has been deemed mentally incompetent by the court is in a state hospital or other mental health treatment facility awaiting trial.
Authored by State Senator Henry Stern (D-Calabasas), SB 317 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October of last year and went into effect this past January.
“SB 317 provides pathways to appropriate mental health treatment for defendants charged with misdemeanors,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-California), Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
SB 317 also changes some of the guidelines for trial competency.
“It is important to remember that not all options are available for every defendant, as those are dependent on the situation and mental health status of each defendant,” stated Jones-Sawyer. “This bill is a tailored approach that allows California to use existing tools to help defendants gain competency and avoid a cycle of incarceration.”
Assembly Bill (AB) 124 provides a petition process for an individual to request that an arrest or conviction for nonviolent offenses be vacated — if the booking or crime resulted from the person being a victim of intimate partner violence or sexual violence.
“This bill ensures that survivors of sexual violence are able to receive justice through our legal system, which typically overlooks the context of abuse when determining whether to arrest,” said Jones-Sawyer.
Newsom signed AB 124, which was authored by Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), in October last year. It took effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
“Incarcerated survivors of trafficking & violence need a 2nd chance at holistic justice,” Kamlager tweeted last year before the bill passed. “We cannot continue to criminalize behavior born of desperation and liberation when our systems don’t benefit those who need it most.”
The law also allows a coercion defense to be used in the case of a serious felony or charge of human trafficking if the defendant is a victim of human trafficking and their offense was a direct result of that.
“Many trafficking survivors are incarcerated for crimes committed to protect themselves from further violence. AB 124 allows for more just outcomes moving forward,” stated Jones-Sawyer.
Senate Bill (SB) 73, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), ends mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.
The legislation allows a court to suspend a sentence or grant probation for drug offenses such as possession or transportation of opiates or cannabis.
“Mass incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders hasn’t reduced drug use or addiction,” Wiener tweeted after the bill passed last year. “Time for a new approach.”
Gang enhancements are additional prison sentences prescribed to individuals who courts determine are associated with a gang.
Under the previous law enacted in 1988, individuals who are found to be affiliated or associated with a “criminal street gang” could receive gang enhancements for any felony even if it is not connected to gang activity.
“When 92% of gang enhancements are used against BIPOC – that’s a massive systemic problem,” said Kamlager.
Just six months into the year, it is not clear how effective these new laws have been but the push for criminal justice reform continues inside and outside of the California legislature even as more conservative opinions harden against them.