'We're in shock': Conn. state Rep. Quentin Williams dies in early morning hours following inauguration
State Rep. Quentin Williams (D-Middletown) was killed early Thursday morning after the vehicle he was in was struck by a wrong-way driver on Route 9 in Cromwell, just hours after he was sworn in to his third term. State police confirmed the death Thursday afternoon.
Williams, also known as “Q,” was first elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2019 and on Wednesday attended swearing-in ceremonies. He was 39 years old and was the first Black person to be elected state representative from Middletown.
Gov. Ned Lamont has directed Connecticut state flags to be lowered to half-staff until the date of interment. The Capitol Complex and Legislative Office Building will also remain closed until Monday.
State Sen. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) said he received a call at 6 a.m. that his friend, who was in his wedding, had died.
“His infectious laugh, his optimism, love for Middletown was something that permeated the entire community,” Lesser said. “He was a larger-than-life figure. We’re just numb. We’re in shock.”
Connecticut Democrats acknowledged Williams’ death on Twitter Thursday morning. In a statement, Senate Republican leaders said Williams was “a bright star and an individual who so deeply dedicated himself to helping people.”
“Quentin embodied love and joy,” said Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly of Stratford. “He was passionate and hardworking. Everyone knew him as someone who wanted to better our world, who radiated positivity and who had so much more to give.”
“Life is precious, and it is painful to see such a beautiful life and soul taken far too soon,” Republican leaders said.
A police report indicates the wrong-way crash occurred just before 1 a.m. Thursday when a vehicle occupied by Williams was traveling in the left lane on Route 9 south in the area of the Exit 18 entrance ramp in Cromwell. Another vehicle was traveling north in the southbound lane, the wrong way, and struck the car head-on. Police idenitifed the wrong way driver as Kimede Mustafaj, 27, of Manchester.
Williams' car caught fire and became “fully engulfed in flames.” State police said Williams was pronounced dead on the scene. The other car came to an uncontrolled stop on the grass center median, and Mustafaj was also pronounced dead on the scene. The cause of the crash, including whether alcohol or drugs were involved, was under investigation.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, a Middletown resident, said she knew and worked with Williams for nearly 20 years.
“Raised by a single mother, Queen Williams, ‘Q’ ardently believed in the power of uplifting women,” Bysiewicz said in a statement. “Just recently, ‘Q’ changed his last name to Williams to honor his mother, who worked hard and sacrificed in order to raise him into the amazing man he was.
“I was so honored to support him when he ran for the legislature because of his genuine enthusiasm and authentic desire to help others and make a difference in our community,” Bysiewicz said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said on Twitter, “Q Williams was so full of energy, joy, and passion for his new role and the work ahead. Heartbroken by the news.” Bronin posted a photo of him with the lawmaker at the Bushnell, where the governor’s inaugural ball was held Wednesday night.
Attorney General William Tong said Williams was a legislator who was always “hopeful.“
“Q was always brimming with optimism and possibility,” Tong said in a statement. “He had a spirit that was relentlessly positive and aspirational. We need his light more than ever, and that’s why it is so hard to lose him. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife and his family and the community that he loved and served.”
In addition to a passion for racial and economic justice, Williams supported Connecticut workers. He was set to appear at a labor committee meeting Thursday — his first as chair.
“He was just so excited about what he could do to improve the lives of working people in Connecticut,” Lesser said.
Williams is survived by his wife, Carrissa.
This story has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report.