Detective Keith L. Williams

Detective Keith L. Williams

New York City Police Department, New York

End of Watch Monday, November 13, 1989

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Keith L. Williams

Detective Keith L. Williams and Detective Richard J. Guerzon were shot and killed by a prisoner as they were returning him to Riker's Island.

The detectives had picked up the prisoner at Riker's Island to bring him to the Queen's District Attorney's Office so a polygraph test could be administered. The prisoner was secured in a room and handcuffed to a pipe on the wall, but was left unsupervised. It was during this time that their killer broke into a locker within his reach and obtained a handgun.

When the polygraph was canceled the prisoner was cuffed behind his back to be returned to Riker’s Island. As the detectives drove along the Grand Central Parkway, near LaGuardia Airport, the prisoner drew the weapon and ordered the detectives to pull the car to the side of the road. As soon as the vehicle stopped the prisoner killed both officers. He un-cuffed himself with the detectives' handcuff keys and fled.

The detectives' killer was apprehended a few hours after the murder. He was subsequently convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 91 years to life. He will be eligible for parole in 2079.

In September 2019, 172nd Street and Jamaica Avenue was renamed Detective Keith Williams Way.

Detective Williams was assigned to the Queens District Attorney's Squad for eight years. His wife and daughter survive him.


  • Age 34
  • Tour 8 years
  • Badge 4101

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Sentenced to 91 years to life

prisoner custody, transport

Most Recent Reflection

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Posted on the NY Post September 15, 2019

Google him,’ NYPD widow urges as Queens street renamed in honor of slain husband

It’s hardly the prettiest block in New York City.

Still, a block of 172nd Street in Jamaica, Queens now has a new, and some would say sacred, name — “Detective Keith L. Williams Way” — and the slain officer’s widow gave an impassioned speech at Saturday’s street renaming ceremony, describing the beauty she sees there.

“Someone asked why 172nd and Liberty Ave,” widow Rita Williams said at a well-attended renaming ceremony at the newly-honored corner, named for her husband, who was shot and slain by a prisoner, alongside partner Det. Richard J. Guerzon, as they transported him to Riker’s Island in 1989.

“I mean … It’s commercial, sometimes it smells, there’s no trees, there’s no beauty?” the widow noted.

Still, “This is home, plain and simple,” she said to audience cheers.

The slain cop had been well-known in the neighborhood, where he’d coached the local basketball league.

“This is where we were raised,” the widow noted.

“My family still lives over 50 some more years in the same house. Keith and I got our first opportunity over on Watson Place.

“This is fitting,” she said, accompanied by daughter Tennille Williams. “He deserved this and more. This is history.

“See it’s not the location, it’s the meaning. This is history,” the widow repeated.

“I want people to stop, get stuck at the light, look up and say — ‘Oooh — detective what?’ And Google — because today they Google,” she said to laughs.

“And then when they Google, they’re going to find out that two wonderful men lost their lives, two wonderful family men,” she said.

“I need the conversation, I need you guys to help me keep him alive. We can’t let ’em die; we gotta keep talking about ’em,” she urged.

“So, on behalf of Keith and Richie Guerzon’s family — who couldn’t make it, but we’re very much in touch — I want to say thank you, I love you.”

The touching re-naming ceremony was attended by Police Commissioner James O’Neil, who observed that while the 30th anniversary of the two officers’ murders was just days away, “We remember them and their sacrifice each and every day.”
Williams made a difference each day, the commissioner said.

“It was his work and the work of his collages that made New York of today possible,” the top cop said.

“I am proud to be here 30 years later to honor him and all the brave cops who followed in his footsteps.

“So many cops worked in pairs, teams, units and squads and faced the risk of their work together.

“And they always understand what that could mean, and over the past nearly 60 years, 19 sets of NYPD partners have been killed in the line of duty. It’s a terrible reality.”

He added, “Today we are here to honor heroes like Keith, and to always be reminded of the supreme courage that NYPD cops display every day in the face of very real dangers.

“Everyone who sees this street sign, everyone who walks into the park will see Keith’s name. Each time that happens is another opportunity for us to tell his story — the stories of all who gave their lives in the line of duty.

“That is how we honor them and that’s how we make sure no one ever forgets.”

Retired Police Officer

September 15, 2019

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