BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Schools superintendent spoke to the press Friday morning about the security scare at Harvey Austin Elementary School Thursday afternoon.
Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown says crisis services is at the school Friday, and the school is secure. She says the district’s plans for this type of situation were followed, ensuring children’s safety.
“All of those procedures were followed as they should have been, and I’m very grateful to everyone who made that the case,” she said.
An anonymous call came into 911 around 4:15 p.m. Thursday that a man with a gun was seen inside the Sycamore Street school. Thursday evening local MAD DADS leader 52-year-old Dwayne Ferguson, who also teaches an after school program, was taken into custody on charges of having a weapon on school grounds.
“It is my understanding that he works with a group of students, that he has possibly done some mentoring of students and that he was very well known to the staff and students,” Brown said.
Around two and a half hours after the school went into lockdown, students were bused to Buffalo’s Build Academy, which is a designated evacuation site.
The district’s response drew criticism from some families, who think they should have been notified about the incident. Friday, the district said they have an automated phone system in place but chose not to use it. They say it wasn’t used because it would have sent a message to parents of all the students in the school, not just the students who were there for after school.
Brown said calls were made one-by-one to families of kids in after school, however some phones were not working. The district acknowledged more could have been done, but says they were focused on keeping the children safe.
Police went room to room searching for a gunman and an initial sweep turned up nothing. It was during a more thorough secondary search that a gun was located on Ferguson during a pat down of everyone in the building. Officers say he had the opportunity to come forward during the search, letting them know he had a gun, but he never did.
Police Chief Kevin Brinkworth, who managed the search, says he cannot say if Ferguson made any statement on Thursday when he was arrested.
Brown says she is sorry for the strife and difficult situation parents and students had to endure between the time the 911 call was made and the time families were reunited. But even though the police response may have been frightening to parents and students, Chief Brinkworth says it was standard.
“I can tell you, and as you’ve seen throughout the country, if there is an active shooter, everyone comes. Every police officer available will respond to that scene,” he said.
It is still unclear who called 911, but it is known the call came from outside the school.