A 94-year-old man accused of firing a gun inside a Buffalo assisted living home was arraigned Tuesday on an attempted murder charge. But the lawyer representing John Tenant and the Erie County District Attorney both believe he will never be brought to trial.
Tenant sat, wearing headphones as Erie County Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns and attorneys took turns holding a microphone while carrying out the arraignment. Burns stood just a few feet from the defendant, away from his usual place on the bench.
The judge approved a request to place Tenant in a mental health facility for one year. Following his indictment in July, Tenant has received three forensic evaluations which, according to both prosecutors and the defense, concluded that he is unfit to stand trial.
"What the psychologists found is that he is delusional," said defense attorney Paul Dell outside the courtroom. "He believed that people were trying to kill him."
Tenant is accused of firing a handgun inside the Mary Agnes Manor on Porter Avenue in June, missing a maintenance worker. Dell pointed out that his client had no prior criminal record and is a military veteran who participated in combat in Japan and Korea. He suggested Tenant's mental health issues may include dementia and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Erie County DA John Flynn agrees with the judge's decision to place Tenant in the care of a mental health facility and believes it would be most appropriate to let him live out his remaining years in that place, rather than jail.
"His actions were not that of a rational person," said Flynn. "I sympathize with that. I agree with the doctors who evaluated him."
Flynn also addressed concerns about an elderly resident possessing a handgun in an assisted living center. He acknowledged Second Amendment rights but urged nursing homes and similar care facilities to examine their rules for safety.
"What I am suggesting is that nursing home facilities and assisted living facilities across Erie County look at their rules and look at their guidelines as to what is allowed or not allowed in terms of weapons, and work within the parameters of the law as well," Flynn said.