BUFFALO, N.Y. — A mental health crisis played out on Genesee Street and Michigan in Buffalo on Saturday.   

A man was shot by Buffalo police at the intersection of Genesee and Ellicott streets after allegedly striking an officer with a baseball bat during a mental crisis call.

What You Need To Know

  • A man was shot by Buffalo police on Saturday after police responded to a mental crisis call

  • Video from an eyewitness captures multiple Buffalo police officers chasing a man holding a bat

  • Video then shows the man turn around and swing at an officer, before he is shot in the abdomen once

  • A witness says that she believes that if a particular officer who allegedly visits the man daily was on scene, the situation would have been different

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo said in a press conference Saturday that a man was allegedly yelling at people on intersection of Genesee and Ellicott streets and acting aggressively while yielding a baseball bat.

"One of the officers on scene was a crisis intervention trained officer. They attempted to speak to the individual who became agitated, got up from where he was sitting and began to walk down Genesee Street," said Rinaldo.

Police say the man, who family have identified to Spectrum News as 60-year-old Willie Henley, made a striking motion towards officers, with officers attempting to use pepper spray multiple times, which Rinaldo says appeared to have no effect on the man. 

Rinaldo says the man swung the baseball bat at the intersection of Ash and Genesee Streets, striking a female Buffalo police officer.

Henley faces charges of 2nd degree assault and 3rd degree criminal possession of a weapon, Rinaldo confirmed to Spectrum News Monday.

In video from an eyewitness, multiple Buffalo police officers can be seen chasing a man holding a bat. Video then shows the man turn around and swing at an officer. That's when shots were fired. 

"That's when her partner, did fire two rounds, striking the suspect, one in the abdomen," said Rinaldo.

Rinaldo says the man was taken into custody and transported to ECMC, where he says he is in critical, but stable condition.

"I can tell you there were a number of officers who were present at the scene. There is body cam footage that has been recovered from the officers at the scene that is currently being reviewed by our homicide unit," said Rinaldo.

The officers involved were taken to ECMC and did not sustain serious injuries. Police say the man is in stable condition also at ECMC.

Spectrum News spoke to a witness that did not want to be identified. She said that the man suffers from a severe mental disability and that he lives at local center for adults dealing with mental illness and addiction.

She says a Buffalo Police officer comes to visit the man.

"You have an officer that comes to talk to this man every night....every night," she said.

The witness also says, she feels if that particular officer was on scene, the situation would have been different.

"It probably would have been different, it probably wouldn't have happened," she said.

Investigators say they're working with the Buffalo Police Department's internal affairs unit and they've also contacted the Erie County District Attorney's office.

Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans issued a statement on the incident Saturday night. Evans said that they believe their officers followed proper protocol, and that the Police Benevolent Association continues to work to improve police interactions involving mental health issues:

“As the investigation continues into the details of today’s incident on Genesee Street, we believe our officers followed Departmental protocols and New York law in responding to an individual who attacked a Buffalo police officer with a baseball bat.  The officer was struck repeatedly and was taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.

Officers on the scene, including a member from the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), pleaded with the individual to drop the bat. Despite these efforts the individual ultimately attacked the officer who was injured.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association has been actively communicating with City officials, members of the Common Council and police administrators to improve police interactions with people with mental health issues. 

This type of interaction is extremely dangerous and can quickly turn into a life or death situation.  Due to these concerns, the PBA is advocating a collaborative process to enhance training and refine protocols to properly address this public health and safety issue.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown made an announcement Saturday on WUFO new initiatives in the coming weeks regarding mental health and policing.

Brown said those initiatives included discussions with the police union, which have been successful.  

"Yesterday's incident was another case that we've seen in our country involving people with mental health crisis needs and their involvement with police. These situations can be very dangerous and very difficult for all involved," said Brown.

A police rep tells Spectrum News Buffalo police and the Police Benevolent Association have approved a plan to have Endeavor Health social workers partner wiith officers on mental health-related calls.