Masten District Councilmember Ulysees Wingo will not face any charges for bringing a loaded handgun into Riverside High School last week.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said his office and the Buffalo Police Department conducted a thorough investigation of the matter. Flynn said he has come to the determination that he will not press charges against Wingo, even though he could have.
"He did commit a crime here," Flynn said. "He committed a crime of criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, which is a violation of the penal law and, basically, that penal law says that it is illegal to knowingly possess a gun on school grounds without the written authorization of the school."
Flynn said while Wingo did not have written authorization, he clearly had verbal authorization for possession of the gun in school.
As soon as Wingo realized he had the gun, he reported to the school’s main office, asked for security and explained the situation to the principal. The principal locked the gun in a safe, separate from its ammunition.
Flynn said he is using his prosecutorial discretion and common sense in his decision not to file charges.
However, it begs the questions: Did a City Councilmember get special treatment because of his public status? And would a parent or anyone else walking into a school with a gun be treated the same? Flynn said, absolutely.
“If a parent walked in and did the same thing with the same totality of the circumstances – walked in, said ‘Oh my gosh, I forgot I had a gun on me,’ immediately went to the main office, asked for security, asked the principal, told the principal what happened, put the gun in a safe, etcetera, etcetera, just like here I definitely would give that parent the same common-sense ruling,” Flynn said.
Wingo said Riverside High School Principal Jerome Piwko also will not face any criminal charges. Whether Piwko faces any repercussions for violating school district policy on permitting weapons on school grounds remains up to the district.
Wingo, who has a licensed pistol permit, has apologized for the situation, saying his actions were unintentional and inadvertent. Mayor Byron Brown said everyone involved took the appropriate action once Wingo realized he was armed.
"When we he realized he had the weapon, he went immediately to the school office, reported that he had it, and asked how they wanted it to be handled," Brown said. "He handled it the way the school district officials recommended at that time."
However, Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore was not so forgiving. The head of the teachers union told WBFO the councilmember "should have had enough sense" not to bring the gun to a school in the first place, or to have at least locked it in the trunk of his car before entering the school.
"Anyone, knowing what's been going on in this country and knowing the laws, to go into a school with a loaded gun and then blame the lack of security in the school and say, 'Well, if they had better security, I wouldn't have gotten into the school.' What does he mean, if we had security that he would have been shot?"
WBFO's Nick Lippa, Mike Desmond and Marian Hetherly contributed to ths story.