BUFFALO, NY – Dwayne Ferguson, the leader of the anti-violence organization Mad Dads, pleaded not guilty Friday in connection with an incident that forced a city school into lockdown for several hours Thursday.
Buffalo Police Department Spokesman Mike DeGeorge said Thursday night that police arrested Ferguson, 52, of Buffalo, in connection with the lockdown at Harvey Austin Elementary School earlier in the day. Ferguson was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, including having a loaded weapon on school grounds.
Ferguson is the President of the local chapter of Mad Dads, an organization that works with at risk youth.
Police say Ferguson was in possession of a handgun inside the school. An anonymous call to the school office reporting a man with a gun on school grounds is what prompted the lockdown and subsequent search.
Despite a request by prosecutors, who asked for bail to be set at $10,000, City Court Judge Jeanette Ogden released the activist on his own recognizance, citing his community involvement and the fact that Ferguson has no prior run-ins with the law. The judge did, however, order him to turn in all of his weapons and to stay away from the school until the case is resolved.
Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown issued a statement Thursday that described the suspect as "an after-school provider through a community-based organization." The statement goes on to say that, "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."
Superintendent Brown is expected to update the media and community on the incident at a City Hall briefing Friday morning.
The statement also said that student support teams would be present at the school on Friday to counsel children who may have been upset by the incident. The district will also review procedures to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again in the future.
The lockdown led to an extensive police search involving at least 20 officers, a SWAT team and K-9 patrols.