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Buffalo police officer, art teacher plead guilty in firing of handgun

Buffalo Police Officer Dawn Lopez and a high school art teacher Megan Corcoran were both ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after they pleaded guilty to charges they fired a handgun in Cheektowaga at about 3 a.m. July 26.

Town Justice James Vallone gave both women a one-year conditional discharge and spared them further criminal punishment on their pleas. The two were initially charged with reckless endangerment.

Amy J. Goldstein, the head of the Erie County district attorney's Justice Courts Bureau, said Lopez, 37, a decorated eight-year veteran officer, and Corcoran, 39, a South Park High School teacher, pleaded guilty to a town ordinance gunfire charge that is the equivalent of a criminal misdemeanor.

Neither could be reached to comment.

State police arrested them at about 3 a.m. July 26 for firing Lopez's 9 mm Glock service handgun out the window of the off-duty officer's car on the shoulder of the Thruway, just beyond the Kensington Expressway, after a night of bar-hopping.

State Police investigators said just after the incident that the two women had fired several bullets in the direction of a grassy area backed by a fence. A residential neighborhood is less than 100 yards away. No one was injured.

Lopez was ordered suspended from duty without pay July 27 by Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson. Her suspension was lifted Aug. 17, Gipson said. He said Lopez was placed on an "administrative assignment" upon her return to the department and remains there.

The commissioner said hearings will begin soon for departmental charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Meanwhile, Corcoran is also expected to return to her job, according to Heather Groll, spokeswoman for the Buffalo Public Schools.

"She has been disciplined and will be returning to work later this school year," said Groll, explaining she was unable to be more specific about the case.

News Staff Reporter T.J. Pignataro contributed to this report.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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