(UPDATED 3:30 p.m.) The state Capitol community was shaken Thursday by news that state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams was killed in an early morning head-on collision with a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction on Route 9 in Cromwell.
Williams, a 39-year-old Democrat from Middletown, was sworn in Wednesday for a third term in office. A spokesman for House Democrats said the Legislative Office Building would be closed Thursday and Friday with all scheduled meetings canceled.
Thursday afternoon, State Police identified Williams as the driver of one of the two vehicles in the crash that took place just before 1 a.m. and left both drivers dead at the scene, according to a press release.
Police said that a driver traveling north on Route 9’s southbound side struck Williams’ vehicle, forcing it off to the left shoulder of the road where it was engulfed in flames. The driver of the wrong-way vehicle was identified as Kimede Mustafaj, 27, of Manchester.
Williams had recently been appointed to serve as the House co-chair of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee. He was the first Black lawmaker to represent Middletown in the state legislature and was a graduate of Bryant University and Villanova University. Voters in Middletown elected him twice as the city’s treasurer and he had previously served as chair of the municipality’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
Williams was well-liked among legislators and policymakers and his sudden death was a startling follow-up to the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday’s opening day and swearing-in ceremonies at the state Capitol. The accident occurred as Williams was driving home from Hartford after Gov. Ned Lamont’s inaugural ball.
Friends and colleagues offered condolences in statements and social media posts on Thursday morning. In a press release, House Speaker Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas offered well wishes to Williams’ family including his wife, Carrissa, and mother, Queen.
“I am in shock,” Ritter said. “Q was my dear friend and I am scarred by his sudden loss. We will have time to reflect on Q as a legislator in the weeks to come, but right now I deeply mourn my friend and send all of my love to Carrissa, Queen and Q’s family. We will all miss Q.”
Rojas called Williams “an amazing human being.”
“His infectious smile could instantly make a difficult day better,” Rojas said. “He was an amazing husband, friend, and colleague. He loved community and serving others. Truly – a friend to all who knew him. This is a terrible tragedy and a great loss to our state. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and all who loved Q. We will miss him.”
Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said Williams was a “beloved friend” and “trailblazer” in their city.
In a press release, Lamont directed state flags to be lowered to half-staff in recognition of Williams.
“Quentin had an infectiously optimistic personality, and he absolutely loved having the opportunity to represent his lifelong home of Middletown at the State Capitol,” Lamont said. “Public service was his passion, and he was always advocating on behalf of the people of his hometown. He was a genuine person with a genuine soul, and he will be missed.”
Attorney General William Tong described Williams as an optimistic and hopeful person.
“I met Q before he became a state legislator when he was an advocate for a local school in Stamford, and I can only think of one word to describe him—hopeful. Q was always brimming with optimism and possibility. He had a spirit that was relentlessly positive and aspirational,” Tong said.
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas issued a statement calling Williams’ death a loss for the people of Connecticut.
“Q’s unrelenting dedication to create a more equitable Connecticut for all set the standard for all public officials,” Thomas said. “I am lucky to have been able to call Q a friend. I will miss his passion and energy and I grieve with his family and all who knew him.”
“Not a kinder person in the building or all of politics than Q,” Rep. Melissa Osborne, D-Simsbury, tweeted. “His smile radiated his genuine warmth and concern for others. A huge and unthinkable tragedy and loss.”
House Republicans issued a statement through Minority Leader Vincent Candelora expressing condolences to Williams’ friends and family.
“Representative Williams was a young, emerging leader who deftly balanced forward-looking thoughtfulness with passion and charisma in his work at the Capitol and within his community,” Candelora said. “His tragic passing is a devastating loss for the General Assembly, Middletown, and the State of Connecticut.”