More than 200 Rochester police and members of other law enforcement agencies filled a City Court courtroom or stood in the hallway outside as the alleged attacker of one of their own faced his charges for the first time.
On Oct. 8, City Court Judge Stephen T. Miller entered a plea of not guilty on Williams’ behalf. Williams, who came to court wearing a green striped Monroe County Jail jumpsuit and shackles, is being held without bail.
Keith Williams, 28, was charged with the Class A felony of attempted aggravated murder and the Class B felony of aggravated assault on a police officer for the alleged attack Oct. 4 on Rochester Police Officer Denny Wright, who was answering a call for family trouble at 37 Peck St.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers, those on and off duty, filed in for several minutes before court was in session. Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and Deputy Chief Mark Mura sat in the first row of the gallery for the proceedings, which took just a few minutes. Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter and Undersheriff Korey Brown sat behind them.
“You saw a sea of blue,” Singletary said after the arraignment. “This is what happens when a law enforcement officer is injured, hurt, attacked in this county. We will stand shoulder to shoulder to ensure that one, we’re supporting Denny and his family and, two, we’re sending a clear message that an attack on a police officer in this county is not going to be tolerated.”
District Attorney Sandra Doorley said she planned to bring the case to the grand jury, so Williams could face additional charges.
Doorley said the charge of attempted aggravated murder can be made when a person attempts to kill a police officer who is carrying out official duties. “I believe in this case the facts will show this is attempted aggravated murder. He knew this is a police officer who was there to render aid to him and he assaulted him and or attempted to kill him.”
Wright, a 23-year veteran of the RPD, worked in the Clinton Section. Singletary said he trained numerous other officers in the department. The officer also was well-known in the neighborhood – he regularly read to students at School No. 8, and Singletary said other officers are wondering how they’ll tell the children that Wright may not be back for a while.
Wright underwent surgery Oct. 4 at Rochester General Hospital, where he remains. Singletary said he most recently visited with Wright on Oct. 7 and the officer was talking and joking.
“It puts the officers in good spirits when they see that he is joking, but still tough to know what he went through,” Singletary said.
The officer was stabbed in the left eye, the face and lower body, according to a police news release that announced the arrest of Williams. Singletary said Wright faces a long physical and emotional recovery.
Two Good Samaritans, who have not been identified by RPD, are being credited with helping save Wright. Singletary said they heard commotion inside 37 Peck St. and rushed inside.
Previously, Rochester Police Department released a statement from Wright’s family:
“We would like to thank everyone for their support in this difficult situation. We are humbled by the outpouring of genuine concern and compassion from his brothers and sisters in blue, the medical staff at Rochester General, and his family and friends.
“The overwhelming support is a true testament of Denny’s character … a caring, giving officer who always did and always will place the safety of others before his own. On behalf of our loving Denny, thank you and please keep him in your prayers.”
Singletary previously released a timeline the Oct. 4 encounter:
- 11:45 a.m., a resident of 37 Peck St. called 911 call for family trouble;
- 12:21 p.m., Wright is dispatched;
- 12:25 p.m., Wright arrived;
- at aproximately12:30 p.m., Wright requested assistance.
Singletary said that when Wright arrived, he tried to talk to Williams. Singletary said Williams had been under a bed on the first floor. He came out, tried to run out the front door and family members tried to grab him. As Wright attempted to intervene, Williams allegedly punched him in the face several times, knocking him down. Williams became armed with an 8-inch knife and allegedly repeatedly stabbed Wright.
Wright fired one shot toward Williams, but it missed. Wright and Williams continued to fight. Singletary said that two individuals who heard the commotion ran into the house to help Wright and said Williams was held down by those two and by Wright until other officers arrived.
Singletary said it was difficult to watch the body-worn camera video.
“(Wright) fought the entire time,” Singletary said. “His training kicked in, his resiliency kicked in. That’s one of the things he wanted me to know, he didn’t give up. I told him Denny, no, you didn’t. I’m proud of how he served his community and proud of the way he protected himself in this ordeal.”
Officers took Wright to RGH. Williams, who had been Tased, was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital. Singletary previously said Williams was being evaluated, but he declined to say if it for his physical or mental health.
Police had responded to 37 Peck St. several months ago, and Doorley confirmed that Williams has charges of criminal possession of a weapon that are pending. She said witness have been unwilling to come forward because of fear.
“If we don’t have witnesses coming forward, we’re not going to get those people who pose a risk to public safety off the street,” she said. “We really need everyone to stand up and take account for themselves and cooperate with the system. If we can’t get those who are a risk to public safety off the street, then all of us are at risk.”