The man accused of killing six men and wounding a woman in a series of shootings in Northern California appeared in a Stockton courthouse for a further arraignment hearing on Monday, the last time he’s expected to do so this year.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested on Oct. 15 as he drove through the streets of Stockton, armed with a handgun, Stockton Police Department officials said. The arrest followed a weeks-long search that garnered national media attention.
Police say the string of shootings, which took place between April 2021 and September of this year, were connected by ballistic reports and that the handgun Brownlee was arrested with matched several of the shootings.
Brownlee first appeared in court on Oct. 18, when he was formally charged with the homicides of three men: Jonathan Rodriguez, 21, Juan Carlos Carranza-Cruz, 52, and Lawrence Lopez, 54. The maximum penalty of these charges could be death.
Following Brownlee’s initial arraignment, his legal team filed a request for a pre-trial gag order, which would restrict information about what’s happening in the case from being made public ahead of the trial.
According to a KCRA 3 report, Public Defender Allison Nobert said in a court hearing that comments made by Stockton Police Department and San Joaquin County District Attorney officials during public news conferences hurt Brownlee’s right to a fair trial.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Xapuri Villapudua denied the gag order request on Oct. 25.
“We are in the very early stages, trial is a year or more away. We are also in the era of the 24-hour news cycle and it’s highly likely that this case will not have the coverage that it is currently generating," Villapudua said at the hearing, as reported by KCRA. "The court at this point cannot find at this time that there is a reasonable likelihood that the negative press would prevent Mr. Brownlee from receiving a fair trial and paneling a fair and impartial jury."
The case resumed on Monday. Brownlee appeared in court dressed in a red jumpsuit, which denotes his high-security risk.
Judge Villapudua entered some of Brownlee’s employment records into evidence, and also received two subpoena items related to the alleged attempted homicide on Natasha LaTour, who was shot 10 times near her tent in Stockton and survived.
LaTour was present in court on Monday, as well as Brownlee’s family.
Brownlee did not enter a plea for any of the charges in court on Monday. He will next appear in court on Jan. 3, for a further arraignment hearing.
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber-Salazar said the department will likely bring additional homicide charges as more evidence is gathered. Brownlee is also being investigated for three other homicides and an attempted homicide on LaTour in April 2021.
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