Dwayne Ferguson made an honest mistake when he carried a handgun into Harvey Austin School on Thursday afternoon, according to the Rev. James E. Giles, a friend of Ferguson’s and president of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries.
“I’m sure Dwayne went into the school not thinking he had the gun on him,” Giles said Friday. “We know this for a fact that he called out to a Buffalo police lieutenant asking why the school was in lockdown, and that they were looking for a man with a gun.
“Dwayne’s reaction was to get his kids – he had about 50 of them – and make sure they were safe,” Giles explained. “He led them into the cafeteria and closed the doors.”
Giles, like Ferguson, is a member of Buffalo Peacemakers, an anti-violence coalition that targets gang-related street crime.
Ferguson is not employed by Buffalo Public Schools but was working in the 21st Century Community Learning Program, an after-school academic enrichment initiative that tutors disadvantaged students, Giles said.
Other members of the Peacemaker organization were in cellphone contact with Ferguson as the incident unfolded.
George Johnson, president of Buffalo United Front, was outside the school talking to parents, many of whom he described as being distraught over the four-hour school lockdown.
“We talked to a lot of parents last night,” Johnson said. “We were at the scene talking to the parents to assure them that their children were safe. We calmed them down. I explained to them what the situation was, and they understood what was going on. That’s what we do. We are Peacemakers.
“Dwayne probably was in a position to help the police not knowing that he was the one they were looking for,” Johnson continued. “He had a concealed weapon, which he has a permit to carry.”
Ferguson is youth mentor and president of MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder), a group he formed with other fathers on the East Side when he was 35.
The father of three children, Ferguson is a lifelong resident of the East Side. Throughout the years he has overseen MAD DADS basketball leagues in an organized effort to keep teens off the streets.
According to Giles, Ferguson operates a printing business.
Johnson, meanwhile, said Ferguson also worked as a security guard for community events.
Ferguson often carries a gun during the course of his business day, both Giles and Johnson said.
“I’m sure he went from his business where he has a permit to carry his gun straight to the school,” Giles said.
“Mental lapses happen,” Giles said. “Things happen. It’s an unfortunate mistake. Dwayne was not conscious that he was in school with a gun.
“Secondly, it has nothing to do with Buffalo Peacemakers. Harvey Austin is not one of our assignments. It’s not one of our missions. We don’t want this to reflect on what we do. We don’t want anything to impede us from having the power to reduce violence in this community.”