Armed neighborhood watch group forms to protect Kenosha subdivision

Armed Watch Kenosha

KENOSHA, WI (The Journal Times ) — About a 10-minute drive from Downtown Kenosha, two men stood this week with AR-15 firearms protecting their subdivision.

The armed men were Jason Ottum and Gilbert Rosales, part of a group of about 10 residents of the Kenosha subdivision that have been out nights since Tuesday protecting their neighborhood in light of the unrest in Kenosha.

Despite the we-mean-business message the group conveys to passing motorists, Ottum and Rosales were anything but threatening Thursday night. They were sincere in their concern for their neighbors and city.

“All we’re doing is making sure the community here is able to go asleep, sleep fine and are not worried about anything,” said Rosales.

Rosales, who said he has lived in the area for 18 years, got involved after seeing other members of the neighborhood guard assembling Tuesday.

The effort was launched after a Neighborhood Watch meeting held in the wake of violence that ensued largely in the city’s Downtown and Uptown districts after the police shooting Aug. 23 of Jacob Blake.

“We had a neighborhood Watch meeting, about 20 of us assembled and talked about what we should do,” said Ottum, who has lived in the neighborhood about 20 years.

Several ideas were thrown about and what was initially settled on was if sentries in the neighborhood saw potential trouble, they would drive through the subdivision and honk their horns so residents would know something was happening.

The decision to arm came afterwards.

“A lot of us are veterans (Ottum and Rosales said they served in the Marines), some are former cops, so we’re comfortable (handling firearms),” Ottum said. “We’re simply doing nothing more than protecting the subdivision.”

On patrol

The subdivision guards have been staying in place until about 1 or 2 in the morning and, as of Friday night, had not encountered any trouble in the subdivisions, which being somewhat isolated from the rest of the city are normally staid.

Ottum said a van with young females drove by the guards Thursday and yelled “Black Lives Matter.” And Ottum said there was nothing wrong with that and that the group supports peaceful protest.

While on guard, the watch group keeps an ear on the police scanner and members keep in communication with each other via walkie-talkies.

“Our approach is when we see a car coming through we flash the ground (with a flashlight) just to let them know there is a presence here,” Rosales said.

If a vehicle does pull into the subdivision, the watch group uses “a friendly approach” to the drivers, letting them know they are just keeping an eye on things.

“The cops have been very supportive,” Ottum said of the guard’s initiative. “They said ‘guys, just be careful.’ And they actually suggested to use our cars to block a bit (of the street).”

Kenosha Police did not respond to a request to comment about the watch group’s efforts.

While the circumstances that led to the guard’s formation were unfortunate, a benefit that has emerged, the guard members say, is they have become better acquainted with their neighbors.

“That’s probably the silver lining in all of this. I’ve met other neighbors and we’re all talking,” Ottum said.

Outreach efforts

That sense of community is not limited to the armed patrol. Watch members have been delivering refreshments to police and National Guard members who have been stationed at Bradford High School.

And Ottum said that they have established a “Kenosha Strong” GoFundMe account to raise funds for first responders — police, fire and EMS — in Kenosha. As of Saturday, their account had raised about $8,500.

“This is just the way the Kenosha community pulls together and help each other,” Rosales said.

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