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No charges for councilman who brought gun into high school

Posted at 4:52 PM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 22:37:10-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County District Attorney has opted not to criminally charge a Buffalo city councilman who brought a concealed weapon into Riverside High School last week.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, District Attorney John Flynn announced that he had investigated the incident and was using his prosecutorial discretion to not charge Councilman Ulysess Wingo.

"I will not be filing any charges against Mr. Wingo," said Flynn. "That does not, however, mean that he did not commit a crime."

Last Tuesday, Wingo brought his gun, for which he has a concealed-carry permit, into Riverside High School. Under New York State law, guns are not allowed on school property unless the person has written authorization to have it.

Wingo, who always carries the weapon, was attending an assembly in his capacity as a city councilman. Flynn said Wingo realized he had the weapon with him after he entered the school building, and immediately sought security. When he could not find security, Wingo sought out the school's principal. The principal agreed to take the gun and put it into a safe. Flynn said Wingo then took the clip out of the gun, and the principal locked it in the safe. Wingo then took the clip and sealed it in an envelope, and gave it to the school's secretary to store in her desk.

Several Buffalo leaders have defended Wingo's actions, including Mayor Byron Brown, who said Wingo took "appropriate action" after realizing he had entered the high school with the gun.

We all forget things," said Brown, "lets face it, we're human beings." Brown went on to say he believes all parties involved took the appropriate steps once the incident was reported by Wingo himself.

But Flynn said both Wingo and the principal made a mistake in their actions. He said Wingo should have left the school the second he realized he had the gun and either put it in his vehicle or bring it home. Since he didn't do that, Flynn said the principal should have insisted Wingo leave.

"The principal should have told Mr. Wingo, 'You cannot put it in the safe; you've got to leave right now and take the gun out of here,'" said Flynn. "The fact of the matter is, Councilman Wingo technically did commit a crime. He committed criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds."

Under New York's penal code, criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds is a class E felony.

Flynn said his common sense conclusion was to not charge Wingo, and it was clear that the gun was never around any students.

Wingo is no longer permitted on any district property. He is also barred from attending any district-sponsored events without written permission from the superintendent. He has also taken a step back from his role as Education Chair for the Buffalo Common Council.

The principal involved has been placed on administrative leave.