Police pack courtroom as suspect in stabbing of officer pleads not guilty

Charles Molineaux
Created: October 08, 2019 08:36 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) —The man accused of stabbing a Rochester policeman in the face pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Uniformed police made up a sea of blue in Rochester City Court as 28-year-old Keith Williams was arraigned on charges of attempted aggravated murder and aggravated assault on a police officer for the stabbing of Denny Wright.


Wright, on-duty and in-uniform, was responding to a domestic call on Peck Street last Friday when police say the attack took place.

“We are standing shoulder to shoulder,” said Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary. “And this is what happens when a law-enforcement officer is attacked in this community. We send a message that this is something that should not be tolerated.”

“He knew that this was a police officer who was there to render aid to him, and he assaulted him and/or attempted to kill him,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

Wright was taken to Rochester General Hospital with stab wounds to his head and his face. Williams was initially hospitalized as well before he was formally arrested Monday.

After his arraignment, he was sent to the Monroe County Jail. It wasn’t for the first time- he has become a frustrating and familiar face for Rochester police.

“Certainly to see this happen to Officer Wright last Friday and to know that it was [an] individual we had contact with previous is certainly disheartening,” said Singletary.

In June, police ended up in a standoff with Williams after he allegedly shot a man in the head following a fist fight.

At the time, Williams was charged with assault, illegal weapons possession and menacing.

The criminal complaint on the incident says the shooting happened in front of plenty of people, but prosecutors say they struggled with that case because people who could help wouldn’t cooperate.

“We’ve got witnesses who don’t want to come forward, because frankly, they are afraid of him because of his violent tendencies,” said Doorley.

Friends praised Wright, a 23-year-old veteran of the Rochester Police Department, as a friendly approachable part of law enforcement with years of experience in the city’s Clinton section.

“He would go and visit the school and have a dance parties and read to the kids and just be that great community presence as a police officer,” said Bobbi Jo Dondorfer, wife of a Rochester police investigator and a friend of Wright’s family.

She expressed surprise that Wright, of all people, was the victim in such an incident.

“Denny is always the guy that can talk people down and talk them off of that ledge and have kind of a more reasonable resolution to conflict, not this type of violence and savage attack,” she said.

“This is always in the back of everyone’s mind and there’s no way to completely prepare for it,” said Mike Mazzeo, president of the Locust Club. 

Normally an outspoken police advocate, Mazzeo avoided discussing any policy issues on Tuesday, instead choosing to stand with the crowd of uniformed police in support of Wright as Williams was arraigned. 

“Our brother Denny started the arrest,” Mazzeo said, “and his family closed that arrest. This is for him, his family, and for all his brothers and sisters.”

Wright was taken to Rochester General Hospital after the incident.

“He has a long road to recovery,” said Singletary. “I do not want that to get lost. But he is in good spirits, as good as anyone can be who went to a situation like that. He is laughing, joking, it’s just amazing the spirit that he has knowing that he went through a vicious attack.”

Doorley predicted Williams’ case would be referred to a grand jury, and said additional charges were possible. 

Williams was already scheduled for a hearing on the assault and illegal weapons charges connected to the June incident on Thursday, less than a week after Wright was stabbed.

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