District, parents grateful for police response

As soon as the call came in that there was a possible gunman at Harvey Austin Elementary School on Sycamore Street, Buffalo Police focused all of their resources on the east side school.

Every move by police on Thursday came out of an abundance of caution. But even at the height of this scare, watching those officers work, it appeared they had everything under control.

A dispatcher said, “[Charlie] 440, if you could start heading to 1405 Sycamore, see the principal there. They just received a call – they don’t know where the call came from – but it said that someone just walked into the school with a gun. That’s all the info they have.”

The first Buffalo Police officers to arrive at the school learned about 60 students and teachers were scattered throughout the building. They quickly began moving everyone to the cafeteria, gearing up for a room-to-room search.

“Okay Radio, so far we don’t have a description of a male with a caller who called the school, about a quarter to four, stated that a black male walked in the school with a gun. No description. We’re not sure if it’s a prank or not, but we’re going to do this by the numbers,” a police officer told the dispatch.

Next came wave after wave of officers from every district, Strike Force, K9, Housing, lieutenants and the SWAT team. You can hear both calm and a sense of urgency in their voices. Police were taking control, but remained ready to act in a split second, should the unthinkable happen.

A lieutenant radioed, “Everybody who’s in the school now, all officers, find a staircase, find a basement door, and hold on it. Anybody on the exterior, hold on the exit doors. Let’s slow this down.”

A SWAT commander instructed, “Make sure these coppers inside know to stay together. Nobody should be alone in there; make sure we’re at least doubling up, tripling up if possible.”

And another leader told officers, “We don’t know if a man, the alleged man with a gun is in that cafeteria, playing possum at this point. I don’t want to move them out until we got enough, uh – til I can get a real good read on this.”

As SWAT cleared the building, officers shepherded students and teachers onto school buses, waiting to take them to safety at nearby School 91.

A SWAT member said, “Car 10, we’re going to be moving around to the back to start the evac process, okay?”

A lieutenant added, “Allow the bus [to] come up Sycamore to Koons, Koons to the back of the school. The other buses are there staging.”

By that time detectives were already there, waiting to interview and search them.

“Any on-duty crisis teams, start heading for that location,” an officer said.

Police Chief Kevin Brinkworth said Thursday’s response to Harvey Austin was standard for this kind of call.

The bottom line is, this ended without anyone being harmed. And everybody on Friday, from the school district to parents, voiced a real appreciation and gratitude that Buffalo Police handled this they way they did.

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