Willie Henley being evaluated at Rochester psychiatric facility

Mar 18, 2021

A Buffalo man who police say they shot after he behaved erratically and attacked an officer with a baseball bat last September is now in a psychiatric ward in Rochester, being evaluated.

Willie Henley has become a prominent local exmaple of the problems that can occur when police and those with mental illness interact. Someone called 911 on Sept. 12 of last year to report a man behaving erratically and waving a baseball bat. In a long encounter, police say he finally hit an officer with the bat and they shot him.

Henley was arrested, charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon, and later released to a family member to go into treatment. He never went, unknown to the DA’s Office, until the family member called the cops about dangerous behavior.

A protester to Willie Henley's shooting by police in September wears a shirt with Henley's picture.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"When he gets out -- and he’s been out and about now for a couple months -- he’s probably not taking his meds and he now comes back," said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn Wednesday. "He’s evaluated by two doctors who find him now not competent. So that’s the whole point of Rochester. He will go to Rochester. Hopefully, he will comply there and get back on his meds and get OK to go forward."

"So Henley eventually wound up back in the system," Flynn said, and was sent to Rochester for a psychiatric evaluation.

"I can’t let him go around taking baseball bats and hitting police officers," Flynn said. "On the one hand, he needs to be accountable for his actions, by again hitting a police officer back in 2017, which he pleaded guilty to, okay? And then in this case right here, two years later, taking a baseball bat to another police officer. On the one hand, I’ve got to hold him accountable, but on the other hand, he needs help."

Flynn said family members had promised to get Henley into a treatment program. During a news conference right after the shooting, family members said the man had a long history of serious problems, but were certain shooting him wasn’t the way to deal with his behavior.