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Community activist spared jail for mistakenly bringing loaded gun to school

A Buffalo community activist who set off a lockdown at an East Side school last winter after he mistakenly brought a loaded gun to the school where he worked as a mentor was sentenced Monday to a conditional discharge.

Dwayne A. Ferguson, longtime president of the MAD DADS Buffalo chapter and a volunteer with Buffalo Peacemakers, which seeks to defuse violence in neighborhoods and at public events, apologized for bringing the gun to Harvey Austin Elementary School and vowed to continue his work with inner-city youths.

Ferguson, 52, of Butler Avenue, accepted full responsibility for his mistake.

State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalek imposed the three-year conditional discharge on Ferguson, which the Probation Department had recommended in a presentencing report.

The judge ordered Ferguson to stay out of trouble for three years, perform 100 hours of community service and provide a DNA sample.

If he violates any of the conditions, he could face up to one year in jail on his guilty plea last May to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor. The judge ordered him to report back in six months on his compliance with the conditions.

He suggested that Ferguson use the 100 hours of community service to reduce violence in the community or improve the lives of at-risk youths.

The school on Sycamore Street was put on lockdown shortly after 4 p.m. Feb. 6 when the office received an anonymous call that a man with a gun was on or near the school property. About 60 students were in the building for after-school programs.

About 15 patrol cars responded to the scene, and the lockdown ended about four hours later when Ferguson was arrested. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

He was dropped from the after-school program at Harvey Austin, but his attorney, Joseph Agro, said outside the courtroom Monday that his client hopes he will be allowed to return now that the criminal case has been resolved.

Inside the courtroom, Agro told the judge his client made a mistake in bringing the gun to school after attending a funeral.

Ferguson, apparently forgetting that he still had the gun, told police he didn’t have a gun when they responded to the gun call, he said.

Ferguson originally was charged with felony counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds as well as a misdemeanor count of obstructing governmental administration.

The first weapon charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, was later dropped after it was determined that Ferguson has a permit for the gun.

The other charges were voided when Ferguson pleaded guilty May 27 to the reduced misdemeanor gun charge.