A 60-year-old man who was shot by a Buffalo Police officer during the weekend has been charged after investigators say he struck an officer with an aluminum baseball bat during the encounter. In addition, Willie Henley has been ordered by a judge to undergo a mental health examination.
Henley continues to recover from his gunshot wounds at Erie County Medical Center, where he remains under police custody. He was arraigned remotely Monday afternoon, facing one count of Assault in the Second Degree and one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree. Both are Class D felonies for which Henley could serve seven years in prison if convicted.
Police on Saturday responded to a call of a man acting erratically along Genesee Street. During the response, investigators say, Henley swung the bat he was carrying, twice striking a police officer. Another officer responded by shooting Henley.
"The evidence that we have right now is crystal clear," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. "There's no dispute, there's no ambiguity at all that, that Mr. Henley used deadly physical force with a baseball bat and no officer was in the process of using deadly physical force against Mr. Henley."
Flynn said his office is still studying the incident to determine whether police had justification to shoot Henley.
The officers involved were identified late Monday afternoon as Alyssa Peron and Karl Schultz. Both were placed on administrative leave, pending further investigation.
Flynn says he has observed police bodycam footage and is aware of at least three videos recorded by citizens, one of which he described as a very helpful version including something akin to a play-by-play account of the incident.
Henley is said to have a history of mental health issues. Flynn was asked why he was charged before he could undergo the two forensic evaluations ordered Monday by City Court Judge Diane Wray.
"That's not how the system works. You don't do a medical evaluation of an individual before you charge someone," he replied. "You charge someone with a crime that was committed. And then there's a process where a judge orders a forensic examination, and we go now through that process to determine if in fact, Mr. Henley is suffering from any mental health issues. We will now cross that bridge. That's not a bridge you cross before you charge someone."