Dwayne A. Ferguson was no stranger to students and staff at PS 97 Harvey Austin School.
He was a presence at the school who worked with the after-school program, tutoring and mentoring children.
In the community, he was known for his anti-violence efforts and as a member of MAD DADS and Buffalo Peacemakers.
No one thought he would show up at the school Thursday afternoon in possession of a gun.
That was the sentiment expressed by both Buffalo Schools Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and Kevin Brinkworth, chief of police, school safety and security during a news conference this morning.
“This is a person well-known in the building,” Brinkworth said. “No one expected him to have a gun in the building.”
Brown and Brinkworth revealed new details about the incident that started with an anonymous call to the school and culminated an extensive search by the SWAT team.
The school received the call about 4:15 p.m. notifying staff that someone had entered the school with a gun. Brown and Brinkworth said it was not yet clear who placed the call.
Around that time, 911 received two calls about the incident, prompting the school to go into lockdown and touching off a search of the building by police and SWAT team responders.
The initial search of the building turned up nothing, Brinkworth said.
It was not until police were patting down students so they could evacuate the school that they found the gun on Ferguson, Brinkworth said.
Ferguson, who has a permit for the gun, was wearing it in a holster, and at no time during the lockdown did he notify police that he was carrying a weapon.
“He had opportunities,” Brinkworth said.
Brown and Brinkworth said it is unclear why Ferguson had the gun on school property, but officials do not believe he had any ill intent.
“I will say he had no ill intent to harm these students,” Brinkworth said. “I don’t know why he had it on him.”
The superintendent also addressed concerns of parents that they were not notified by school staff about the incident.
Brown said the staff at the school followed the appropriate protocols, making sure students were safe and secure before beginning to place calls to the emergency contacts on file. Many of those numbers, Brown said, were disconnected. She reinforced that parents need to update their information if they change their phone number.
“As you know here and around the country we are very aware of the actions that must be taken in these situations,” Brown said. “We hope parents can appreciate that our first focus is on their children’s safety. We contacted them at the very first opportunity.”
Both Brown and Brinkworth said school and police officials are reviewing how the events played out, and checking the protocols they have in place.
Still, answers and solutions may be hard to come by.
Ferguson had undergone all the appropriate checks to work in a city school. Buffalo schools do not have metal detectors, Brinkworth said, and short of that there would have been no way to know he was carrying a weapon.
“We can prepare, we can train, we can do drills,” Brinkworth said. “Obviously these are fluid situations. You’re reacting to situations as they happen.”