Dionne Brown wonders how the confrontation with the armed intruder would have unfolded at 8:46 a.m. Thursday had she and her co-workers at the substance abuse treatment clinic stayed quiet in recent months.
After seeing some arguments and fights among clients, they spoke up about the need to strengthen security at Alba de Vida in Buffalo's Lower West Side neighborhood.
"We work there every day," said Brown, a licensed practical nurse at the clinic. "We see the climate of people and their anxiety and mental issues. We see that every day. We knew that if we didn't speak up about it and then do something about it, that it possibly could be a bad outcome any day, you know?"
That day could have been Thursday if not for the clinic's two new security guards.
The two guards, now hailed as heroes, quickly subdued the gunman who entered the clinic at Virginia and 10th streets, pushing him outside and onto the ground before police arrived to take him into custody. No one was injured in the incident, though several shots were fired.
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Both were hired within the last two months after union workers at the clinic and their employer agreed to improve security staffing and implement safety planning. In fact, just last week, the clinic underwent an active shooter training for staff.
Moments before he entered the clinic, the suspect, Jeremy A. Griffin, 48, of Williamsville, allegedly entered a residence on Pennsylvania Street, also on the Lower West Side, and shot a 47-year-old woman in her upper leg. She was taken to Erie County Medical Center and released Friday.
Griffin was arraigned Friday in Buffalo City Court on multiple felony charges. He was charged with second-degree attempted murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the Pennsylvania Street incident. In the clinic incident, he was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree reckless endangerment.
Jeremy A. Griffin, 48, of Williamsville was arraigned on multiple charges .
The clinic is run by Promesa Inc., an affiliate of Acacia Network, a leading human services organization in New York City and the largest Hispanic-led nonprofit in the state. Acacia Network has more than 100 affiliates and related entities and employs 2,700 people across six states and Puerto Rico.
"Acacia Network commends the tremendous bravery of our employees, who immediately sprang into action and averted a possible tragedy," the company said in a statement. "We are proud of the safety and security measures we have in place, including our dedicated security personnel. We would not want this incident to overshadow the important work that takes place in this program, which provides much-needed services to our communities."
The clinic has always had security, Brown noted, but the recent discussions with managers bolstered it more.
"I thank God that management listened to us and really got on the ball and hired new people," said Brown, a member of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents 20 workers at the clinic. "Because if it wasn't for them, I don't know how it would have ended."
'That sounded like a gunshot'
Thursday morning started like usual.
Brown and another nurse were in the dispensary upstairs, where they distribute methadone, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder.
They had a client at the dispensary window when they heard a boom. Since the dispensary is enclosed in glass, sound often gets muffled.
"Everybody kind of paused and looked around, like what was that?" Brown said.
The client at the window muttered, "That sounded like a gunshot."
It couldn't be, Brown recalled her initial reaction.
Then they heard the sound again. Everybody just stopped in place.
"Then somebody came running and said, 'He's got a gun,' " Brown said.
Curiosity turned to horror, and seconds started to feel like minutes. A co-worker came from the other side of the building, opened the door and escorted clients to a safe place.
In the dispensary, Brown quickly pulled the panic button. She closed the windows, the blinds and hid behind the safe, the dispensary's most secure place.
And they waited and hoped.
"We stayed there, until we heard people saying, 'They got him. They got him. They got him,' " Brown said.
Once they heard that, Brown said she came out of the dispensary and went to a window, where she could see straight down in front of the clinic on the sidewalk.
There, she saw the two new security guards, holding the suspect on the ground.
Then the police arrived.
At 8:46 a.m. Thursday, police said the suspect drove to the Alba de Vida clinic. A witness said he saw a man get out of a gray SUV with an AR-15-style rifle and go into the clinic.
The gunman fired a single shot into a wall in a small vestibule, said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, describing video from a surveillance camera that captured the events.
A security guard who was in the vestibule ran at the gunman from behind, Gramaglia said.
"He was holding on to this guy from behind and holding on to the gun. The guy was physically struggling with him. More shots were fired," Gramaglia said.
Then a second guard came into the vestibule and two guards forced the man outside and onto the sidewalk where they get him down to the ground.
By that point, the gunman's rifle had jammed, Gramaglia said.
Two bystanders also came to the aid of the guards, with one helping hold the gunman down and the other grabbed the rifle, said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
"I want to commend not only the two security guards but also the two civilians for their heroic effort in preventing any further injuries or God forbid any loss of life. It was truly a heroic act on everyone's part," Flynn said.
Two security guards subdued an intruder who fired shots from an AR-15 style rifle Thursday morning inside a substance abuse treatment clinic in Buffalo's Lower West Side neighborhood.
"They were absolutely heroic," Gramaglia said of the guards and bystanders. "Who knows what could have happened?"
Police said Thursday in a statement neither incident was a "a planned attack" but "appear to be attempted robberies tied to drug activity."
Griffin, the suspect, was remanded to jail after spending the night at ECMC. The judge ordered a forensic psychiatric evaluation. He is scheduled to return to court Nov. 15.
'Happy it ended the way it did'
Gramaglia and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown stopped by the clinic Friday morning to check on everyone.
The clinic's owner is sending counselors to work with the staff after Thursday's incident.
Brown, the licensed practical nurse who in December will mark three years working at the clinic, said she's glad the company listened to her and her colleagues to make improvements. The clinic, she said, offers needed services and programs in the community, such as a needle-return box, a food pantry and a program that helps people with housing.
She's happy the company hired the two new guards. She called them both "very nice guys."
One of them helped break up a fight among clients on his second day working at the clinic. Brown worried he wouldn't come back.
But he kept coming in.
"I'm just glad that nobody got injured," Brown said. "I'm just happy it ended the way it did."
Jon Harris can be reached at 716-849-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ByJonHarris.