A heavily armed man who told police he wanted to “harm” the gay pride parade in Los Angeles was arrested in Santa Monica early Sunday, the same day 49 people were shot dead and 53 others were wounded in a terror attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
James Wesley Howell, 20, was taken into custody after he was reported to police as a suspicious person by a person in the neighborhood near Olympic Boulevard and 11th Street, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.
Seabrooks initially said Howell told an officer he wanted to “harm” the gay pride event while he was being arrested, but the chief later corrected herself and said he was going to the parade, but did not say what his purpose was.
He is from New Albany, Indiana.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say They Found 3 Long Rifles, Ammo & Materials for Explosives in His Car
Police said James Howell was arrested on charges for firearm and explosives possession at 4:59 a.m., Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez said in a press release.
Howell had three “assault rifles,” high capacity magazines and ammunition, Rodriguez said. He also had a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device, according to police.
ProPublica reporter Robert Faturechi tweeted out a police alert about the arrest, which said the suspect had five pounds of mixed Tannerite-type powder, which can be used in explosives, assault weapons, long rifles, “clips” loaded and taped together, a camouflage outfit and a security badge:
Officers searched Howell’s car Sunday morning, with all four doors of the white Acura open and a green blanket, red gasoline canister and other items piled on the sidewalk next to it, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A source told the Times the weapons Howell was found with “were very disconcerting.”
2. His Arrest & the Orlando Terror Attack Led to Heightened Security at the West Hollywood Pride Parade
Police, pride organizers and other authorities considered cancelling the gay pride parade in West Hollywood, but decided against that. Security was heightened at the event because of Howell’s arrest and the Orlando terror attack.
“We are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack,” the event’s organizers said in a statement. “Our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are. We will be loud. We will be proud and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost.”
3. There Is No Known Connection to the Orlando Shooting, Police Say
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said there is no known connection to the Orlando shooting.
The Orlando gunman pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call prior to the attack. He had been investigated twice by the FBI for connections to radical Islamic terrorism.
There are no indications Howell had any ties to international terrorism.
Howell graduated from Ballard High School in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013, according to his Facebook page.
He has worked as an auditor at Clarcor Air Filtration Products Inc., in Jeffersonville, Indiana, since March 2016, auditing manifests and operating forklifts. He has also worked security at Universal Protection Serves and in shipping for Amazon.com.
4. Howell Was Arrested Last Year for Pointing a Gun at Neighbors & a Witness Told Police ‘James Needs to Stop Pointing Guns at People’
Howell was arrested in Charlestown, Indiana, where he lived at the time, last October for pointing a gun at his neighbors, according to the News and Tribune.
A neighbor told police Howell pointed a handgun at him, his wife and several friends while they were sitting on a porch having beers.
According to police, Howell had also pointed his gun at two other people earlier in the day.
“James is going to get someone hurt,” a witness told police. “He needs to stop pointing guns at people.”
A video on Howell’s Facebook shows him firing a gun in June 2015:
Howell said he had his gun out for protection. He was charged with felony intimidation with a deadly weapon and pointing a firearm, also a felony.
According to online court records, Howell pleaded guilty to intimidation and was put on probation for a year.
5. Howell Told Police He Was Going to Look for a ‘Friend’ at the Parade
Howell told police he was looking for a friend who was going to the pride parade in West Hollywod, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Police said they are looking for that person.
He had been loitering in the area where he was arrested and knocking on doors, police said.
Santa Monica police said the preliminary investigation led to Howell’s arrest, but the probe into his motive and plans is continuing.
The FBI is taking part in the investigation, officials said.
Police still do not know what his intent was.
“It was a misstatement,” Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times about the chief’s initial statement that Howell meant to cause harm at the parade. “Unfortunately, she was given incorrect information initially, which indicated that that statement was made; however, that statement never was made. He did indicate that he was planning on going to the Pride festival but beyond anything as far as motives or his intentions that statement was never made nor did any officer receive that statement.”