Saturday’s shooting wasn’t Buffalo cop’s first

Officer who shot homeless man Saturday also involved in shooting that paralyzed teen in 2012 and cost Buffalo $4.5 million to settle. He's also been investigated 17 times by Internal Affairs, often for allegations of excessive use of force.

Karl Schultz, identified in press reports as the police officer who shot Willie Henley Saturday afternoon, has pulled the trigger on a civilian at least once before.

In 2012, Schultz fired multiple shots at 17-year-old Wilson Morales on the city’s East Side. One of the bullets he fired left Morales paralyzed for life. 

The City of Buffalo settled a lawsuit with Morales in February for $4.5 million, the largest settlement of its kind in the city’s history.

Schultz’s disciplinary history landed him on a list of officers, provided to Investigative Post by the Buffalo Police Department, investigated by Internal Affairs frequently in the past five years on allegations of misconduct.

Schultz joined the department in 2008. Since then, Internal Affairs unit has investigated 17 complaints against him, including eight allegations of excessive use of force.  In 2016, he was investigated for an incident described on his disciplinary card simply as “weapon pointed.”

Ten of those investigations ended in a finding of “not sustained,” a ruling that indicates neither guilt nor innocence, but rather insufficient evidence to make a determination. He was exonerated once, in 2019. Three cases resulted in a talking-to by superiors.  

The Buffalo News has identified Schultz as the shooter. Captain Jeffrey Rinaldo, a police department spokesman, declined to confirm that report, citing the privacy of the officer.

Prior to Saturday afternoon, Schultz had three pending complaints against him — one filed in December 2019, and one each in March and June of this year. 

Schultz earned about $110,000 in 2019, with a base salary just shy of $78,000. Much of the extra income is overtime.

In addition to the Morales settlement, the city paid out $15,000 to settle civil lawsuit in which Schultz and his partner, Jason Whiteknight — who was also involved in the Morales incident — “illegally entered Plaintiff’s home and punched, kicked, pushed, struck and/or otherwise assaulted Plaintiff causing serious personal injuries,” according to the complaint.

In a deposition given to attorneys in the Morales case, Schultz testified he’d pulled his gun hundreds of times but only fired it twice. The Morales incident was the first time, he said. The other was in 2015, when he shot and killed a pit bull that he said was attacking its owner.

“I don’t really have anger toward them,” Morales told Investigative Post in February, regarding Schultz and Whitenight. “It’s kind of upsetting how they went about the situation. But there’s no anger toward them at all.”

Morales has been confined to a wheelchair since his shooting. A senior honors student at Western New York Maritime Charter School at the time, Morales is now working toward a GED.

“Hopefully they get more training so stuff like this won’t happen to other people,” he said.

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Police and witnesses have offered sharply different descriptions of the encounter that ended with Schultz firing two shots at Henley, a 60-year-old homeless man. Police officers from B District, where Schultz is assigned, responded to a call just before 3 p.m. regarding a man in apparent mental distress, brandishing a bat and threatening people. 

When police confronted Henley at the corner of Genesee Street and Michigan Avenue, he began to walk away quickly, east on Genesee, followed by officers who eventually attempted to subdue him with pepper spray. A few blocks later, police say, he turned and swung his bat at officers, striking one. 

Police say Henley drew back his bat to swing again, and Schultz fired two shots. One bullet struck Henley in the abdomen. He is listed in stable condition at Erie County Medical Center. 

Witnesses say Henley, who frequented the nearby City Mission, posed no threat, growing agitated only when confronted and surrounded by officers, some with guns drawn. Several cellphone videos shot by witnesses of the foot pursuit show Henley changing direction after an officer ran ahead of him and attempted to pepper-spray him. In the videos, Henley’s change in direction brought him into contact with the officers pursuing him. Seconds later, Schultz shot him.

Henley has been charged with assault for striking a police officer and criminal possession of a weapon. He was arraigned via a video-conference Monday and is being held without bail, pending two psychological evaluations.

As is the rule in such events, Schultz is on paid administrative leave, pending a departmental investigation.


Ali Ingersoll contributed to this report.