A 24-year-old California sheriff's deputy surrendered to law enforcement after allegedly shooting and killing a married couple in their Bay Area home while he was off-duty early Wednesday morning.
Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes said his department received a 911 call at about 12:45 a.m. reporting that an armed intruder had entered a house in the 3100 block of Colebrook Lane and shot the couple. The victims, identified on Thursday as 42-year-old Maria Tran and a 58-year-old Benison Tran, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses identified the shooter as Devin Williams Jr., a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and said that he had fled the scene in his vehicle, leading authorities across the state on an hourslong search for the cop. As officials were preparing to provide updates on the case at a press conference, Williams called law enforcement, saying that he wanted to turn himself in, Holmes said.
Appearing to choke up a bit as he spoke, the police chief, who spent 45 minutes on the phone with Williams, said they were able to keep him on the phone long enough to direct California Highway Patrol units to his location near Coalinga, about 160 miles south of Dublin, and take him into custody without incident.
"It’s a great loss for our community, and it's even more disheartening to find out that it was one of our own that actually was the trigger person behind this tragic incident," Holmes said during the press conference.
Alameda County Sheriff's Lt. Ray Kelly said officials believe Williams knew the couple, but the nature of their relationship was still under investigation.
"We believe we’ll get the full picture and at some point we’ll land on a motive," Kelly told reporters. "This was not a random crime."
Still, Kelly described the incident as "a very bizarre chain of events that unfolded" as he explained that the sheriff's department was unaware of any issues with Williams, who joined Alameda County exactly one year ago Wednesday.
"This is not something we deal with, this is not what we're about," Kelly said. "We had no idea that this could happen."
Kelly said Williams grew up in an affluent home, graduated from college "with honors," and was "really a remarkable young person." He previously was an officer with the Stockton Police Department, which ultimately let him go after he failed to pass his probationary period due to what Kelly described as issues with "his ability and his skill set" rather than his conduct.
A spokesperson for Stockton police told BuzzFeed News they couldn't discuss Williams's separation with the department because it was a "personnel matter" but confirmed that he was employed there from January 2020 to January 2021.
When he was hired by the Alameda sheriff's office, the department conducted "a complete and thorough" background check, as well as a psychological exam, and didn't see anything that concerned them.
"His background was immaculate," Kelly said.
But sometime in the last several months, "significant events" must have happened in his life that his supervisors were unaware of, Kelly said. He noted that Williams was clearly "disturbed" and in crisis when he called officials to surrender.
While at the Alameda County sheriff's, Williams was assigned to a courthouse in Oakland and occasionally picked up shifts at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Kelly said. On Tuesday, he worked his normal shift at the courthouse and then reported to the jail where he worked overtime until 11 p.m.
Kelly told BuzzFeed News investigators are trying to determine what happened in the hour and 45 minutes between him leaving the jail and showing up at the house, which is just a few minutes away by car. Officials believe the victims were asleep when Williams showed up at the house. A child and two other family members were inside the residence at the time.
Kelly said they're looking into "all angles" to determine whether there was a romantic relationship, a business relationship, or some other kind of connection to the couple. He confirmed that Williams, who is Black, is not a relative of the victims, who are both Asian.
"There was some relationship that was formed rather recently within the past year and we're looking into what that is," Kelly said. "What was it, I don't know and I think we will get an answer to that."