Breaking News
More () »

Armed with an AR-15, military veteran keeps watch on Indiana high school

Armed with AR-15, military vet keeps watch on Indiana high school
Credit: Getty Images
Detail of the rear of a school bus.

Parked just off the grounds of North Side High School, Mark Cowan's eyes are shown peeled on the Fort Wayne campus.

He tells WANE-TV that's he's there because he's concerned about the safety of those inside. The station reports that Cowan, an Army veteran, is armed with an AR-15 and a handgun, despite the school district saying his presence doesn't increase security. 

"(Students and teachers) all deserve a right to go home at night without fear of what's going to happen during the day," Cowan told the station.

The move comes after a mass shooting at a high school in Florida recently left 17 people dead.

Cowan told WANE-TV he plans to be parked outside until there's a security upgrade at the school. The school, like others in the northeastern Indiana city, has an armed police officer inside the building. 

Since staking out his spot overlooking the school, Cowan has been in contact with the school's resource officer and area police about his plan, WANE-TV reports. Cowan, a member of the Oath Keepers, also told the station he's also been in contact with other members of the organization about joining him.

More: Trump wants some teachers to carry guns. This school district is already doing it

More: Florida school shooting: Sheriff got 18 calls about Nikolas Cruz's violence, threats, guns

More: After Florida school shooting, the best thing from gun debate might be more science

Oath Keepers identify themselves on their website as former military and first responders committed to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The group stood watch for 400 days in 2015 and 2016 over a local military recruitment center in Fort Wayne following the shooting of four Marines and a Naval officer in Tennessee.

When those 400 days came to a close, Cowan told WANE-TV the number of members keeping watch had grown from two to 80. Cowan said such operations are necessary to help law enforcement ensure civilian safety. 

"I'm not in the school, but this is is my community and they need (to be) protected. And our law enforcement, as good as it is, can't be everywhere," Cowan told WANE-TV. "So it's people like myself and other Oath Keepers that say, 'I'm going to take up that slack.'" 

But officials at Fort Wayne Community Schools told WANE-TV they aren't convinced that such a step benefits students and teachers. 

"We take the security of our schools very seriously. We understand he has a right to be out there, but we do not believe it adds to the safety of our students," Fort Wayne Community Schools said in a statement. "At North Side, as at all of our schools, we have security procedures in place. In addition, at North Side, we have armed police officers in the building every day.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Oath Keepers are one of the largest anti-government groups in the country. They say the organization "believes in baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans."

IndyStar's attempts to contact the Allen County Sheriff's Office and Fort Wayne Police Friday evening for comment were unsuccessful. 

Follow Nate Chute on Twitter: @nchute

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out