A young sheriff's deputy was arrested Wednesday following nearly 12 hours at large after police allege he killed a couple in Dublin overnight, leaving the community and his department reeling with as many questions as answers about what happened.
Devin Williams Jr. was booked into the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin – where he had worked an overtime shift just hours before the fatal shooting – Wednesday evening on suspicion of double homicide and potential special circumstances that could make the case death-penalty eligible.
"Just a horrific day today, and a really dark day in the sheriff's office," Alameda County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ray Kelly told Livermore Vine. "In the days ahead, we'll be able to fill in some of the blanks for the community."
Kelly said investigators are still working to piece together the exact connection between Williams and the couple as well as the motivation for the crime that has rocked a typically quiet neighborhood off Fallon Road in the eastern Dublin hills.
Williams has not yet been formally charged, and prosecutors have until Friday evening to file an initial criminal complaint now that he has been placed in jail. It is not immediately clear whether the 24-year-old Stockton resident is represented by an attorney.
The names of the husband and wife who were gunned down in their Colebrook Lane home were not released publicly by the sheriff's office on Wednesday. Kelly confirmed three other family members, including their teenage child, were in the house at the time of the shooting.
"I am heartbroken over the tragedy that occurred in Dublin early this morning," Mayor Melissa Hernandez said in a statement. "There is now a child without a mother and father. Dublin Police are working with the family to see how they can help throughout the grieving process."
"We are grateful that the suspect surrendered without incident, and appreciate the efforts of California Highway Patrol and other agencies, who helped apprehend the suspect," Hernandez added. "I’d like to credit Chief Holmes for his ability to negotiate a peaceful surrender of the suspect, and thank Dublin Police Services for their hard work in bringing this to a peaceful ending."
This marks the first homicide in the city of Dublin in nearly two years. And it appears to be the second time in recent history that a county sheriff's deputy has been arrested on suspicion of murder – that an infamous 2002 case for a crime dating back to 1980.
The 911 call came in to Dublin police around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday about shots fired in the 3100 block of Colebrook Lane, an upper middle class neighborhood that is a short walk from one elementary school and several blocks more away from another, plus multiple parks including Fallon Sports Park and a public golf course.
"A very intense scene, very chaotic," Kelly told Livermore Vine.
Officers arrived to find a man and woman suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. Paramedics were called to the residence, but both people were pronounced dead at the scene, according to Dublin police Capt. Nate Schmidt. The city contracts with the sheriff's office for police services.
Witnesses at the scene positively identified the shooter who fled the scene as Williams, a sheriff's deputy who was off-duty at the time, according to Schmidt.
Williams was hired by the sheriff's office exactly one year ago Wednesday, assigned to courthouse and jail duties, according to Kelly. Investigators believe the gun used in the double homicide was Williams' service weapon.
Williams worked a scheduled shift at the courthouse in Oakland from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, and then picked up extra hours at the jail in Dublin from 5-11 p.m., according to Kelly. Detectives were continuing to investigate what Williams was doing between 11 p.m. and the time of the shooting.
It appears clear to police that Williams knew the victims, but in what capacity is still under investigation. "He specifically went to that house and had a relationship with people at that house," Kelly said.
In addition to the husband and wife killed, their 14-year-old child, her mother and a brother or brother-in-law were also in the house at the time of the shooting, according to Kelly.
Williams allegedly fled from the scene in his gray Volkswagen Jetta, and investigators believe he threw the gun away on the Altamont Pass. Kelly confirmed it is "likely that he used his departmental-issued service weapon."
For some period in the investigation, police were able to use cellphone tracking data and GPS to discover Williams was traveling toward Southern California, but the signal was lost, according to Kelly.
Then, as police and sheriff's officials prepared for a 11:30 a.m. press conference, Dublin Police Services' front desk answered a phone call from Williams, according to Kelly. The lieutenant and Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes were on the phone with the at-large deputy for 46 minutes, and he ultimately agreed to pull over and surrender.
Holmes' conversation with Williams was "a game-changer … good, solid police work at a critical moment," as officers were concerned the fleeing deputy might harm others or himself, according to Kelly.
"Chief Holmes was able to connect with Mr. Williams in a way that was crucial to de-escalate and bring down the tempo of Mr. Williams," Kelly said.
Williams was taken into custody just before noon Wednesday by CHP and Fresno County Sheriff's Office personnel at an exit off Interstate 5 near Coalinga, according to Kelly. Dublin officers drove down, picked up the suspect and transported him back to the Tri-Valley; he was booked into Santa Rita Jail just after 7 p.m. Wednesday, Kelly said.
During the investigation, detectives developed information that Williams likely discarded the gun in the Altamont Pass area while fleeing, so crews were out searching the area into Wednesday night on foot, with search dogs and drone units, according to Kelly.
Acknowledging that the suspect was a member of their own department, Kelly said, "Not once did our people miss a beat in this call."
There were no red flags about Williams' "upbringing, background or suitability for law enforcement (and) he comes from a well-respected family," Kelly added. He said Williams had some traffic violations earlier in his 20s.
Williams worked briefly for the Stockton Police Department in 2020 early in the pandemic but was unable to successfully complete a six-month probationary period and let go, according to Kelly.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office hired Williams on Sept. 7, 2021 through its academy graduates recruitment program, according to Kelly, who said it's not uncommon for a prospective officer to fail to complete a probationary period at one department but get another opportunity with another – especially in the current law enforcement hiring climate.
Williams was a sworn deputy-sheriff assigned to courthouse and jail duties, not patrolling the streets, according to Kelly.
"We'll also be looking at this ourselves," Kelly said, referring to the process for how Williams was hired last year.
Dublin police continue their investigation, with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office also involved given that a sheriff's deputy is the suspect. Prosecutors have 48 hours to formally charge a defendant after they are booked into jail or they can't be held anymore.
Wednesday's slayings are the first homicide (non-vehicular) in Dublin since rapper Lil Yase died on Nov. 28, 2020 after an overnight shooting. That case remains active with no suspects charged in court to date.
The last time an Alameda County sheriff's deputy faced homicide charges appears to have been the infamous Eric Wright case, which made national headlines and fodder for true crime shows.
Wright, a lieutenant and rising star in the department, vanished in the early 1980s and lived under a false name for years afterward, before he was ultimately arrested in Mexico in 2002 for the 1980 death of gold dealer Lester Marks. Wright would later plead guilty to manslaughter.