After a 911 call stating a man had a gun inside Harvey Austin Elementary School on Sycamore Street in Buffalo, teachers and staff rounded up 60 students and took them to the cafeteria as the school went into lockdown.
The call came in around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday. More than a dozen cop cars, K9 units, the SWAT team, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Air One helicopter responded to the school to search for the possible gunman.
By 5:30 p.m., a preliminary search had been completed and no gunman was located. Police began allowing students to board buses, but it would be more than an hour and a half later before children would be reunited with their parents at BUILD Academy, School 91.
Emotions were running high as parents were forced to wait to see their children. William Szymanski waited hours for his reunion.
“Relieved that my son is safe and I have him in my possession,” he said.
Before these children were reunited with their families, they were screened by police to make sure they weren’t carrying any weapons.
Twelve-year-old student Lajahnei Robinson said, “Our hands behind our heads like this and they were just patting us down ,checking our boots and all that.”
Robinson spoke to News 4 while wrapped protectively in her mother’s arms. Her mother, Melissa Maye, was crying. She says there was little communication between the district and concerned parents.
“I got three different stories. Some kid had a gun, some student had a gun, some teacher had a gun, everybody had all these different stories. I’m just glad everybody’s kids are okay, and mine are going home,” she said.
Many parents echoed Maye’s concerns.
Willie Putman said, “I still haven’t gotten a text saying my kids are okay. I still haven’t gotten a text saying there was something happening. I still haven’t gotten anything from anybody.”
All of the students are safe and accounted for. News 4 asked a school spokeswoman about the lack of communication with parents, but we received no respond. The school did release a statement saying, “Staff began placing calls to all parent homes in order to inform them” but it gave no indication of when those calls took place.
School officials say police will be increasing their presence at the school for the remainder of the week and support teams will be at the school on Friday for those children who need to discuss Thursday’s alarming incident.
Superintendent Pamela Brown released a statement late Thursday night saying, in part, “I understand our parents’ concerns, and I express my deepest apologies for the anxiety they have experienced. I also apologize for the interruption of the students’ after school activities, while I commend them for following the instructions provided by our trained staff. Due to laws that are in place, and whether this was an intentional act or an oversight on the part of the individual in question, this is now a police matter.”