City honors Jamaica detective killed in the line of duty

Rita Williams (center), wife of fallen Detective Keith L. Williams, proudly stands with her husband’s street sign alongside family members and NYC Council Member I. Daneek Miller (right) shortly after Saturday’s ceremony.  Eagle  photos by Joseph Jungermann.

Rita Williams (center), wife of fallen Detective Keith L. Williams, proudly stands with her husband’s street sign alongside family members and NYC Council Member I. Daneek Miller (right) shortly after Saturday’s ceremony. Eagle photos by Joseph Jungermann.

By Joseph Jungermann and Fiifi Frimpong

Special to the Eagle

The intersection of 172nd St. and Liberty Ave. in Jamaica became Detective Keith L. Williams Way Saturday during a ceremony honoring the late detective, who was killed while transporting a detainee from Queens to Rikers Island nearly 30 years ago.

Elected officials, community leaders, police officers and Williams’ family were on-hand to unveil the new street sign, which was approved by the City Council earlier this year. 

“I have come full circle,” said Rita Williams, Detective Williams’ wife. “It is 30 years since my husband has been deceased. This is the community we grew up in. To have the street named after him right next to a park named after him is like the biggest honor there can be. I am complete now; I do not need anything else.”

Detective Williams, a lifelong Jamaica resident, began his career in the police academy in 1981, serving in both Bushwick and South Brooklyn before becoming a detective for the Queens District Attorney’s Squad in 1987.

Jamaica residents joined NYPD officials for the ceremony. Rita Williams emphasized that the Jamaica community has formed a strong relationship with law enforcement in part because of the legacy of her husband

“Keith inspired so many other community people to go into law enforcement, so we have a respect for law enforcement, and we work together with law enforcement,” she said.

Residents who attended the street naming ceremony continued to celebrate the life of Detective Williams at Jamaica’s sixth Annual Family Fun Day, which took place the same day in the park named after him.

“This is an opportunity for us to really highlight those from our community who made significant contributions,” said Councilmember I. Daneek Miller, who sponsored the street co-naming in the Council. “But in this case here, these are young men and women who are now parents who have come through [Detective Williams’] organization, through this community. That allows us to continue his legacy.”

A four-year varsity basketball athlete for Jamaica High School, Detective Williams made an effort to give back to the Queens community throughout his career sponsoring extracurricular athletic programs for local district schools.

He started the Keith Roundball Classics basketball tournament in Liberty Park, and the park was renamed after him in 1991 shortly after his death. Patricia Johnson, Detective Williams’ sister-in-law, said the tournament continues to run today and that her 23-year-old son still plays in it. 

“It was his work that he has done on the civilian side just as a member of the community,” said Miller. “We want that next generation of leadership to be inspired to do the same. That is who we are.”

For Ms. Williams, she too understands her late husband’s impact and how his memory will continue to affect their community.

“It’s not the location, it’s the meaning. It’s history.”