Protesters gathered in Niagara Square Monday evening to decry the recent shooting of a man by Buffalo Police officers and to call for immediate police reforms, including how officers respond to mental health crises.
Willie Henley was shot by Buffalo Police officers Saturday evening while suffering a mental health breakdown. Henley, who remains hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center, was virtually arraigned Monday on two felonies. Karl Schultz, the officer involved in the shooting, is not facing any charges stemming from the incident.
Members of Henley’s family were on hand for the rally. His granddaughter, Tameshia Walker, said the charges against her grandfather are unjust and doesn’t understand why de-escalation tactics were not used in this situation.
“It should’ve never escalated to that,” she said of the shooting. “You could’ve [used a stun gun] on him, you could’ve pepper sprayed him, you could’ve tackled him. You could do whatever you had to do possible, but you did not need to shoot him.”
Walker and her cousins were representing Henley’s family at the rally, while Walker’s mother works on getting Henley representation.
Addressing the crowd of a few dozen protestors in front of the Niagara Square fountain, Free the People Western New York Coalition member Miles Gresham said it’s time for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and the Common Council to put action behind their talk of police reform.
“If every time, the police do something egregious to the community and the Mayor comes out lockstep with them and defends them then we have to question his ends,” he said. “We have to. Don’t just propose things and then not pass them or let them die in committee. Defend them and pass them, and make sure that the laws that we are asking for get implemented.”
Gresham said the coalition will continue to protest and is ready and willing to work with any elected official who wants to affect meaningful change. For the officials who don’t, Gresham said he is hopeful pressure from their constituents will have those officials coming to the table.