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Handgun-style BB gun recovered at Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School during lockdown

A white police captain holds a iPhone at his hip, between his gun and his sunglasses. The iPhone is showing a horizontal photo of a black Glock-style BB handgun against a brown background.
Tom Dinki
Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo holds up a phone with a photo of the BB gun recovered during a search of the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School Thursday.

A several-hour-long lockdown of Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School Thursday ended with the recovery of a handgun-style BB gun and about several hundred summer school students released and reunited with their parents.

Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said the situation began in the morning when a student informed their parent that they saw someone with what looked like a handgun in the bathroom. The parent contacted the school, which then contacted police.

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo is pictured speaking to the press, there are several microphones being held in front of him. He is a white man wearing a police hat, smartwatch, a white police uniform shirt, blue-black pants, a belt with visible gun holster and sunglasses. Behind him is a large tiled wall and large black doors.
Tom Dinki
Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo speaks to the media regarding the lockdown of Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School on July 22, 2021.

Canine units from Buffalo Police and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department conducted a room-by-room search, with students escorted to the cafeteria once their classroom was cleared.

The BB gun was eventually found stashed behind a filing cabinet in a classroom, according to police.

Rinaldo said it was an exact replica of a glock handgun.

“There would be no way for even a trained law enforcement expert to tell that that's not a real handgun,” he told reporters after the lockdown ended. “So I want to commend the student that reported this. It’s a brave individual. We will not be releasing identities, but that person did what the schools have taught their students to do.”

Nine students who were in that room where the BB gun was discovered were interviewed by detectives and school officials. Rinaldo said whoever stashed it could face criminal charges — it’s against New York state law for someone under 16 to possess a BB gun. However, as of Thursday evening, no charges had been announced.

It was a frightening situation for the approximately 400 hundred students in the school building, which is connected to the Buffalo Museum of Science in MLK Jr. Park. One of them was soon-to-be-eighth grader Kamarri Collins.

“We were just in class, and then that's when we got the alert,” he said. “We thought it was a drill, until they said on the loudspeaker that it wasn't a drill. It was scary. It was just weird and I didn't know what to do and everybody was scared. People were crying. It was just crazy.”

It was also a difficult experience for his mother, Tina Collins. She and dozens of other parents gathered outside the school during the lockdown. Many of them aired frustration with a lack of communication from Buffalo Public Schools, saying they only knew about the lockdown from their children texting or calling them.

As of Thursday evening, no message about the lockdown appears on the website or social media pages of either the magnet school or BPS.

“The plan to address what was going on was horrible,” Tina Collins said. “The parents, how we just sat out here for four hours knowing nothing, but being hollered at, the cops ganging up on us, like we're doing something wrong just for asking. Board of Education not answering. The school not answering. Nobody got answers to our questions.”

Tensions ran high between parents and police throughout the lockdown, with parents growing vocally frustrated with officers’ occasional updates.

Eventually, parents moved toward the door and glass windows of the cafeteria where their children were being kept. Several pleaded with officers to let their children out, and some even banged on the windows.

Buffalo Police officers stand guard at Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School during a lockdown July 22, 2021, over a report of a handgun in the building.
Tom Dinki
Buffalo Police officers stand guard at Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School during a lockdown July 22, 2021, over a report of a handgun in the building.

After several tense minutes, at about 1:45 p.m., police began allowing children out of the doors and directly to their parents on the other side.
Rinaldo said police, knowing they had already recovered the BB gun, decided to release students then and there to ensure an orderly dismissal.

He said he understands parents were upset with how the school and police handed the lockdown, but that officers’ protocol ensured no one was hurt.

“It's not something that Buffalo Schools or the Buffalo Police Department dreamt up. These are national policies on how these procedures go, because they are the safest method for bringing a conclusion to these types of incidents,” he said.

The situation also forced the Buffalo Museum of Science to go into lockdown. A museum spokesperson said guests were not able to leave or enter the building, but were able to move throughout the museum.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.
Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.