SAN FRANCISCO -- When the phone rang inside a Northern California police station around midday Wednesday, the homicide suspect — an off-duty sheriff's deputy accused in a shocking double-slaying — was on the line.
But the detectives working the case were all out in the field, part of a desperate 12-hour manhunt to find Devin Williams Jr. So the police chief grabbed the phone.
“The secretary says ‘hey, Mr. Williams is calling and wants to speak to somebody here,' " Lt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, told The Associated Press.
Williams was wanted in connection with the fatal shootings of a husband and wife in their Dublin, California, home around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday — less than two hours after the rookie deputy had finished an overtime shift at the county jail.
Williams, 24, fled Northern California after he allegedly barged into the couple's home and shot them with his service weapon while their child and three other people were inside. A manhunt immediately began after a witness — the couple's relative — called 911, with police describing him as armed and dangerous.
He'd made it 160 miles (258 kilometers) south of the East Bay crime scene to the Central Valley — a remote, desolate area off Interstate 5 near the city of Coalinga where temperatures had reached triple digits — before making a pivotal decision.
“I think his call to us was an indicator that he wanted help, that he had gotten himself way beyond his thinking, his emotions, and that he needed help,” Kelly said. “I think that phone call was a call for help.”
Williams' call came into the police department's business line just as Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes and Kelly were about to go in front of the cameras for a news conference.
Kelly, along with a crisis negotiator who later arrived, scribbled and passed hand-written notes to Holmes throughout the 45-minute conversation. They worked to find a place for Williams, now in the middle of a mental health crisis, to surrender peacefully without harming himself or any California Highway Patrol officers there to take him into custody. At some point, he had tossed his gun out the car window.
“We don’t need any more people dying today,” Kelly said.
The slain couple's names have not yet been released. They were only identified as a 42-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man after officials pronounced them dead at the scene.
Williams knew the couple, but investigators are still working to “to fine-tune their connection” and determine the motive, Kelly said. Detectives are looking into, among other things, the possibility of a romantic relationship or an extramarital affair.
“This was not a random crime,” Kelly said. “This is a very bizarre chain of events that unfolded.”
Kelly said Williams went through “some significant events” in his life in the last few months that led to the killings but did not specify what had happened.
“A lot of those events went undiscovered and undisclosed and we’re going to be looking into that. There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said.
The violence left the law enforcement agencies stunned. Williams had been with the sheriff’s office since September 2021 and was still on probation. He had been assigned to the Oakland courthouse, and there were no concerns about his job performance.
“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 was the trigger-person behind this tragic incident,” said Holmes, the Dublin chief who is also a commander in the sheriff's office.
Williams, who is from Stockton, briefly worked with the Stockton Police Department, where he completed their police academy but was ultimately let go after he failed their field training program, Kelly said.
Stockton Police spokesperson Officer Joseph Silva said he could not discuss why Williams left the department because it is a “personnel matter.” He confirmed Williams worked for the Stockton Police Department from January 2020 to January 2021.
But Wednesday was Williams' one-year anniversary with the sheriff's department.
“How did he get there and where were the red flags and how did we not see them?" Kelly said. "How did he get to this point of violence?”
Dazio reported from Los Angeles.