Devin Williams Jr., a 24-year-old Alameda County sheriff’s deputy, had an “immaculate” record, according to his superiors, despite having failed the psychological evaluation to determine whether he had met the standards to become a California law enforcement officer in the first place.
That is, until earlier this month, when he allegedly broke into the two-story home of his lover late one night and used his service weapon to kill the woman and her husband in an execution-style murder that shocked family and neighbors.
Now Williams is sitting in the Santa Rita Jail on double murder charges, the same jail where he worked as a detention officer before clocking out and driving to the home of Benison and Maria Tran where the couple’s 14-year-old son said he witnessed the murders that took place just after midnight on September 7.
Alameda County Sheriff Sheriff Gregory Ahern is claiming that he was under the impression that job candidates who receive a score of “D. Not Suited” were suited for employment as a law enforcement officer under state law.
But that is a failing score, according to standards set by the Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training, the state law enforcement certification agency that defines a passing score as “Suitable.”
Ahern has since acknowledged that an additional 47 Alameda sheriff’s deputies hired since 2016 have also failed the psychological evaluation, who like Williams, received a failing score of “D. Not Suited.”
Ahern, who has been sheriff since 2007, sent a letter to these deputies, stripping them of their guns and arresting powers until he is able to schedule another evaluation with a different doctor who will hopefully give them a passing score.
The deputies will work desk duty, continuing receiving pay and benefits until then. They represent about five percent of the sworn law enforcement within the department.
According to the letter dated September 23:
“The sheriff’s office has been operating under information provided a number of years ago from POST that we can hire can hire candidates who receive a ‘D. Not Suited’ evaluation. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
A great deal of research, and current advice from both POST and County Counsel has confirmed that any candidate who is evaluated as ‘D. Not Suited’ cannot serve as a peace officer in the state of California.
However, 11 CCR 1955(g)(1) provides that a candidate who receives a ‘Not Suited’ Psychological Evaluation has the right to obtain a second opinion and, in the event the second opinion is “Suitable,” then the hiring authority, the Sheriff, can choose to hire the candidate based upon the ‘Suitable’ finding.
Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods said the “revelation could compromise hundreds of cases — closed and pending,” according to a statement she provided to local media.
“If these deputies were not fit for duty, then how can we trust them to investigate our clients and testify against them in court? How can we trust them to treat people properly at the jail?”
A sheriff’s spokesperson said most of the deputies in question were hired between 2019 and 2022, a period when law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area struggled to recruit new officers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Williams, in fact, was hired in September 2021 and was still on probation when he turned himself in about ten hours later.
Prior to that, he worked for the Stockton Police Department from January 2020 to January 2021 but did not pass the one-year probationary period, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ray Kelly.
At some point, he met Maria Tran, a 42-year-old nurse at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro, but it is not clear at this time if he was a patient at the hospital.
The two carried on an extramarital affair since January, according to Williams’ mother, Anitra Williams, who told KTVU her son was “blinded by love.”
His mother said Maria Tran had presented herself to her son as a 35-year-old recently divorced single mother.
Williams, along with 30 of the 47 deputies who also failed the psychology evaluation, worked mostly in the Santa Rita Jail which has seen 59 in-custody deaths since 2014, KTVU reported.He remains locked up in the same jail with no bond.