STOCKTON, Calif. -- A suspect in the killing of three men who police have said were among six victims of a serial killer in Northern California may have used a firearm without a serial number, also known as a ghost gun, police said.
Wesley Brownlee, 43, was arrested on Oct. 15. Police had been conducting surveillance on him as he drove through the streets of Stockton and officials said he was armed with a handgun and may have been “out hunting” for another victim.
Brownlee was charged Tuesday with three counts of murder, one count of a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of ammunition. He is also suspected in the fatal shootings of three other men and the wounding of a woman dating back to April 2021.
A convicted drug offender, Brownlee was barred from owning a gun and he allegedly “used a ghost gun” to carry out the slayings, Stockton police department spokesperson Joseph Silva told the San Francisco Chronicle Thursday.
When announcing the charges against Brownlee, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said the suspect was in possession of a “polymer” gun when police arrested him.
Generally, firearms manufactured by licensed companies are required to have serial numbers – usually displayed on the frame of the gun – that allow officials to trace the gun back to the manufacturer, the firearms dealer and original purchaser.
Ghost guns are often assembled from parts of several weapons, and can be difficult to trace. Some are sold in do-it-yourself kits and the receivers are typically made from metal or polymer.
Brownlee is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 14 for further arraignment. The judge has assigned a public defender. The public defender’s office has not returned a message seeking comment.