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Man arrested for bringing handgun into Harvey Austin School

WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond

Harvey Austin School on Sycamore Avenue was in lockdown late Thursday afternoon following a report of an individual with a gun near or on the school grounds. Some children were there at the time as part of an after-school program.

Credit WBFO News file photo
Harvey Austin School on Sycamore in Buffalo.

Buffalo police have arrested Dwayne Ferguson, 52, of Buffalo and charged him with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon including having a loaded weapon on school grounds.

Police say Ferguson was in possession of handgun inside the school.

Ferguson was part of the after-school program. At this point, police believe there was no ill intent on the part of the man. He is not a district employee.

Buffalo Police and SWAT Team swarmed the school building after the call came in. A preliminary sweep of the building turned up nothing. Children inside were released Thursday evening after being transported to a nearby school.

Schools buses were brought in to transport Harvey Austin students and teachers to nearby Build Academy School 91 on Fougeron Street near Geneseee Street. Students were to be debriefed at that site. Some parents were angered because they were not allowed to be with the students at that point.

According to written statement released by the school district Thursday evening, all student still in the school at the time of the report were immediately accounted for. Officials say police will maintain a physical presence at Harvey Austin Friday.

Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela Brown issued the following statement Thursday night:

The person who was reported to have transported a weapon into Harvey Austin School 97 was known to the district, and was working for an after school provider through a Community Based Organization.  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.
Student Support Teams will be present at the school tomorrow for those children who need to discuss today’s alarming incident.  In addition we will review district procedures to ensure that similar incidents do not occur.

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. 

As always, we regard the safety of our children to be our highest priority.  And while we are dismayed by today's occurrence, we are grateful for the way in which the Buffalo Police Department and the Harvey Austin and BUILD communities pulled together to ensure the safety of all those involved.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.