Defendant indicted for hitting police officer with baseball bat ordered to remain in custody at mental health facility

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that 61-year-old Willie Henley of Buffalo was virtually arraigned this morning before State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns on an indictment charging him with one count of Assault in the Second Degree (Class “D” felony).

It is alleged that on Saturday, September 12, 2020, at approximately 3:00 pm, the defendant hit a Buffalo Police officer twice with an aluminum baseball bat on Genesee Street near Ash Street. The defendant was subsequently shot by a police officer, but survived the injury.

At the time of the alleged incident, the defendant was wanted on a bench warrant from May 2018 for failure to appear in Mental Health Court. The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of Criminal Mischief (Class “A” misdemeanor) for hitting a police officer during an arrest in December 2017.

An initial forensic examination was ordered by the Court to assess his mental health after his arraignment. The defendant remained in custody pending the results of the forensic exam. At that time, two doctors found the defendant competent to stand trial.

On November 17, 2020, the defendant’s defense counsel made a bail motion after housing and mental health treatment had been secured for the defendant. Prosecutors consented to the motion and the defendant was released to the custody of a family member on signature bond.

In February, a family member contacted the Erie County DA’s Office to report that the defendant, who was still living with the family member, had made threats. Upon learning that the defendant refused housing and mental health services that were a condition of his release, prosecutors presented a bail motion to the Court to return the defendant to custody. When the defendant failed to appear in Court on the motion, a bench warrant was issued on February 19, 2021.

The defendant was taken into custody without incident on February 21, 2021. When he appeared in Buffalo City Court, a second forensic evaluation was ordered by the Court. Two doctors found the defendant not competent to stand trial.

At the defendant’s felony hearing on March 17, 2021, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office consented to the defendant being transferred to a facility for mental health treatment. Buffalo City Court Judge Debra Givens signed the temporary order of observation and the defendant was transferred the Rochester Psychiatric Facility.

The matter was presented to a Grand Jury and the defendant was indicted on the felony charge for allegedly assaulting the police officer. Henley, who has since been relocated to another secure mental health facility in Central New York, appeared virtually this morning to be arraigned on the indictment.

Today, Justice Burns signed the order of commitment that requires that the defendant to remain in custody at the facility for mental health treatment until he is returned to competency. A return court date has not been scheduled at this time.

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