CANASTOTA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Support is growing for the village of Canastota Police Officer who was assaulted on duty.

Just after 2:00 p.m. last Wednesday, police were asked to check on a suspicious person in the Liberty Resources parking lot on North Main Street in Canastota.

Officer William Preuss found a man who was acting in a disorderly manner. Police said Officer Preuss was punched in the head and face multiple times, allegedly at the hands of 25-year-old Richard Branch, Jr., who admits he was high on hallucinogen at the time of the attack.

Officer Preuss was hospitalized and underwent surgery for his injuries. As he continues on his long road to recovery, the community is doing all it can to uplift the veteran police officer.

Sean Barton was only recently sworn in as chief of the Canastota Police Department, but he’s worked alongside Officer William Preuss for years.

“Officer Preuss is a big teddy bear. He’s always looking out for everyone else. He would literally sit and talk for eight hours with somebody if they needed any kind of help. There are just no words. It’s upsetting. We’re the last line of defense for people and to have someone attack one of us like that, and to attack someone who’s been a friend for years, it’s very bothersome.”

CHIEF SEAN BARTON, CANASTOTA POLICE DEPARTMENT

However, the Madison County community has shown an outpouring of support for Officer Preuss, including from the Canastota Volunteer Fire Department.

“They serve our community. We serve the community. We all work together, so we’re going to take care of him the best that we can. Canastota strong. That’s how it is. It’s a small community. We all look out for one another. We all take care of one another.”

CHIEF LYLE CHAFEE, CANASTOTA FIRE DEPARTMENT

The hashtag #WearBlueForBilly made its rounds on Facebook. Community members were asked to wear blue on Monday, September 13, and many did to show their support.

The community is also showing their support by making sure Officer Preuss and his family are fed at no cost. Three Pines Restaurant in Canastota is providing the food for the meal train.

When my parents, Bobby and Wendy Bonaventura who own the Three Pines, and I heard of the incident involving Officer Preuss we knew we had to contribute however we could. We all agreed, without a doubt, that we needed to help. Officer Preuss is out there everyday putting his life on the line to protect our community and he deserves all the support he can get in this difficult time. I got in contact with the village who led me to Keri, Chief Barton’s wife. She informed us of the meal train and we have been working closely with her to make sure the family has plenty provided for them in this time of need. We have also been working with the Canastota Fire Department and Chief Chafee. It’s an incredible, overwhelming feeling to be able to give back to someone who protects us everyday. My kids Zane and Lola were so excited to be able to help a hero-helping prep the food, signing a card, and wearing blue in his support.

MEREDITH EDDY, MANAGER OF THREE PINES RESTAURANT, CANASTOTA

My wife came up with the food train. We got people to sign up to bring him meals everyday so they didn’t have to worry about that and his whole family can eat. Just walking around town everybody is always asking how he’s doing, how are we doing, you know, what they can do to help us out. We have a lot of support here in the community.

CHIEF SEAN BARTON, CANASTOTA POLICE DEPARTMENT

Richard Branch, Jr. (25) of Canastota was arrested and faces the following charges:

  • One count of felony assault of a police officer in the first degree
  • Two counts of robbery
  • One count of criminal possession of a weapon
  • One count of menacing
  • One count of attempted assault with intent to cause injury
  • One count of reckless endangerment

Bail for Branch was set at $50,000 cash or $125,000 bond.

The 25-year-old was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, but the village administrator tells NewsChannel 9 it has been cancelled. There is no word yet on a new court date.