ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Testimony began Friday in the trial of the man charged with the attempted murder of Rochester police officer Denny Wright.

According to prosecutors, Keith Williams stabbed Wright in the face and lower body on October of 2019. As a result, Wright lost his eyesight.

The officer, who spent a total of 23 years with the Rochester Police Department, testified Friday. Persecutors also played body cam footage, showing the interaction Officer Wright had with Williams during the October 4, 2019 incident on Peck Street.

Upon taking the stand, Wright recalled responding to “family trouble, someone wanted a person out of the house.” He then proceeds to say he found Keith hiding underneath a bed.

All seemed civil, according to Wright’s testimony, until the suspect punched him and knocked him with force onto his back.

Wright says after being knocked on the ground, he saw a knife under a couch. It was the last thing he remembers before going blind.

He recalls the feeling of getting stabbed and punched several times in his face as he yells for help. He then remembers firing at the ceiling in an attempt to regain control of the situation. Wright says he didn’t think to try to shoot Williams, because he couldn’t see anything.

After the gunfire, backup officers arrive for help, as well as a few civilians and a postal worker.

At the conclusion of his testimony, Wright said he’s been working to find purpose ever since the incident. He’s been speaking to younger officers at the police academy, teaching them the importance of perseverance. 

His colleagues were present in court on Friday, showing support Wright and his family.

“What you see is the training, experience, everything kicking in and that’s what gets an officer through a situation like that. The most important thing you learn is you never give up, you never stop fighting,” said Mike Mazzeo, President of Rochester Locust Club.

“You saw a person that made a choice, I’m going to disengage my weapon, discharge it, and he had an opportunity to discharge it towards where the threat was, even with that he testifies, ‘I’m blind, I don’t know where this bullet is going and I own that bullet, so I shoot it to the ceiling,'” said Sheriff Todd Baxter.

Many colleagues were watching for the first time.

“Hearing him plead for help, there’s no way to describe that,” said Baxter.

“There’s been a lot of criticism the last couple years that police are not equipped to deal with people in crisis, any type of crisis, and I disagree with that,” said Mazzeo. “The best people to deal with that are police officers who have the experience, deal with these incidents day in and day out.”

Wright underwent surgery on the day of the attack and spent the next three weeks receiving treatment at local medical facilities.

Williams is been charged with attempted aggravated murder and aggravated assault of a police officer. He rejected a plea deal, which included a 25-year sentence.

If convicted, the local man could face a maximum penalty of 40 years of life in prison.

The defense has argued he suffers from mental illness, but was deemed fit to stand in court.

“We have never denied that Keith Williams has a mental Illness,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. “But it’s our position that the mental illness does not excuse his conduct in what he did to Officer Wright. I think that’s what this trial is going to come down to whether or not he knew what he did to officer Wright in that home.”

In an interview with News 8’s Adam Chodak, Officer Wright spoke about the challenges of overcoming the injuries and what’s next for himself and his family.

“I’ve been doing exceptional considering the circumstance that I’m currently in, it’s a big learning curve to all-of-the-sudden-loss of eyesight, but it is a doable situation and I’m moving forward and learning every day,” Wright said.

The trial began with the official jury selection on Tuesday.


Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.