Update: Orlando attack, arrest of heavily-armed suspect in Monica rattle LA Pride event

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The attack on Orlando nightclub Pulse, a popular dance club among the gay community, has thrown a pall over Pride weekend 2,500 miles away, in Los Angeles. 

Those concerns increased this morning after news broke that law enforcement officials had arrested a heavily-armed suspect in Santa Monica who possessed chemicals that could be used to make explosives. The suspect, 20-year-old James Wesley Howell, told police he'd been in town for L.A.'s Pride event, though police have clarified that he did not tell them he meant to do it harm, as was initially reported. 

Highlights:

Update 4:18 p.m.: SoCal vigils to mark Orlando attack

Several Southern California communities will hold vigils to honor the victims of the worst mass shooting in American history.

  • In Long Beach, the LGBTQ Center will hold a memorial at Harvey Milk Park at 212 E. Third Street to mourn the loss of life in Orlando. The center has opened up a counseling center Sunday to assist those who want to talk. 
  • In West Hollywood, three gun violence prevention groups — The Brady Campaign To End Gun Violence, Women Against Gun Violence and the the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles — will hold a vigil at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the fountain at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Holloway Dr. Participants are asked to wear orange.
  • In Santa Ana, the LGBT Community Center will host an candlelight vigil tonight at 6:30 p.m. at  305 E. 4th St. Mourners will walk to nearby Sasscer Park. 
  • In Riverside, the LGBT Community Center of the Desert will host a public gathering at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday at Arenas Road between Indian Canyon and Calle Encilia.
  • In Los Angeles, the city's LGBTQ center will hold a vigil 7 p.m. Monday night at City Hall, 200 North Spring Street to honor those killed. 

We'll add more information to this update as it becomes available. 

Update 2:10 p.m.: Santa Monica suspect ID'd, was headed to Pride  

James Wesley Howell, 20, of Indiana was arrested in Santa Monica after neighbors noticed him knocking on residents' doors and windows.
James Wesley Howell, 20, of Indiana was arrested in Santa Monica after neighbors noticed him knocking on residents' doors and windows. Santa Monica Police Dept.

Santa Monica police have identified the heavily-armed suspect they said had told police he was headed to L.A. Pride as James Wesley Howell of Indiana. 

Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that Howell told arresting officers he was heading to L.A.'s gay pride and had "wanted to harm" the event. At a later press conference, Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez corrected that statement, saying that Howell had told officers only that he was planning to attend the event. He had not made any threats.

"We did not have any additional information as to what his intentions were," Rodriguez said. 

Howell was detained at the 1700 block of 11th Street at 4:59 a.m. after neighbors called police. Officers found three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals capable of creating an explosive device in his car, according to Santa Monica police. 

A neighbor told the Associated Press that Howell had been knocking on a resident's door and then ran to hide in nearby bushes when he was approached.

According to the AP:  

Heriberto Gomez, a lifelong resident who says he watches over the neighborhood, stepped outside at 3 a.m. Sunday and saw the man's white sedan parked in the wrong direction on the street.

Gomez says the man ran across the street and hid in bushes and overhanging trees. Gomez says it appeared the man saw him.

He says it was too dark outside, and the man was too far away for him to provide a description. Another neighbor called police, and the man was arrested.

There is no known connection between that arrest and the shooting in Orlando, Seabrooks said. 

Update 1:20 p.m.: At West Hollywood Pride, spirits strong but also somber

It would be impossible to pretend the nightclub attack in Orlando hadn't cast a shadow over the Pride parade Sunday morning in West Hollywood. But it would also be inaccurate to say it had shattered the celebration.

The parade began this morning with a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attacks in Orlando. NBCLA reported some participants wore black arm banners to mark the incident.  

"We are here to march, to celebrate and to mourn," Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said to the tens of thousands of revelers who turned out for the festivities on Sunday morning.

Twitter: Mayor march

"Everyone's in high spirits," said Adam Eramian operations manager of nightclub Micky's West Hollywood told KPCC. "You can't live your life in fear. We're here to have a good time and show our pride. We're not going to let one incident ruin our event today — but our prayers and thoughts go out to everyone in Orlando."

Eramian also pointed out that violence is not new to the LGBT community. "LGBT persons have been attacked for years, both in the United States and abroad," he said. "So our job today is to continue to be out and proud."

We've been talking to parade-goers about their experience and reactions. Were you at Pride today? Let us know your thoughts via Twitter, on Facebook, or in the comments below.  

Update 11:44 a.m.: Heavily armed suspect said he was headed to Pride 

A man armed with explosives and other dangerous material, possibly additional weapons, was detained in Santa Monica this morning.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told KPCC the man was heading to the Pride festival and was detained thanks to a tip from a neighbor. 

"Last night somebody who made a call to the police department in Santa Monica about a prowler resulted in Santa Monica [police] rolling out and finding an individual... who had a car full of weapons and ammunition, explosive powder and who said he was here to visit some people and to go to L.A. Pride," Garcetti said.

Investigators view items removed from a car, left, after a heavily armed man was arrested in Santa Monica, Calif., early Sunday, June 12, 2016. The man reportedly told police he was in the area for West Hollywood's huge gay pride parade. Authorities did not know of any connection between the gay nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday and the Santa Monica arrest.
Investigators view items removed from a car, left, after a heavily armed man was arrested in Santa Monica, Calif., early Sunday, June 12, 2016. The man reportedly told police he was in the area for West Hollywood's huge gay pride parade. Authorities did not know of any connection between the gay nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday and the Santa Monica arrest. Reed Saxon/AP

He added the man had an Indiana license plate and driver's license.  

L.A. County Sheriff officials said the FBI is investigating the incident. Garcetti said at this point there doesn't appear to be a connection between the suspect and the shooting in Orlando.

10:00 a.m.: West Hollywood Pride continues: 'We're not going to let one person ruin a day of being who we are'

West Hollywood mayor Lauren Meister tells KPCC that after a briefing with Captain Holly Perez of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, "As far as we know there are no threats in California or Los Angeles. It appears this was a lone wolf action in Orlando."

But that doesn't mean city officials aren't concerned about safety.

"We will have extra personnel. We will have escape plan in place for both the parade and the festival, if necessary. We will have some additional public safety personnel," Meister says.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's department motorcycle deputies ride along a street in West Hollywood, Calif., during the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, June 12, 2016. A heavily armed man arrested in Southern California told police he was in the area for West Hollywood's gay pride parade.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's department motorcycle deputies ride along a street in West Hollywood, Calif., during the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, June 12, 2016. A heavily armed man arrested in Southern California told police he was in the area for West Hollywood's gay pride parade. Richard Vogel/AP

Meister tells KPCC that she has also reached out to the clubs in the area to offer advice and make sure that they have security in place. "We have people on the streets," Meister says. "We have sheriff's deputies. We have a lot of eyes and ears on the streets as well."

David Cooley, owner of the Abbey, one of the most prominent and longstanding businesses in West Hollywood, has long had a strong security presence "because we are very open to the public." Cooley tells KPCC, "We already brought in about 15 extra security. But we are taking extra security steps and searching more bags. Hopefully this is not a copycat situation. This is enough. It could happen anywhere."

Cooley expects that revelers will face extra security and long lines — both at the Abbey and at other venues in West Hollywood — "in all the clubs."

Cooley was also defiant. "We're not going to let one person ruin a day of being who we are and what we love and being brothers and sisters and support for our community. And we're moving forward," he says.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti addressed a crowd of those gathered in West Hollywood, telling them, "As Americans we will not shrink away, we will not be stuck in our homes. We will not go back in our closets. We are out here to march, to celebrate and to mourn." 

Twitter: Eric Garcetti statement

On his Facebook page earlier in the day, Garcetti told revelers to be cautious and report anything suspicious:

"LAPD is coordinating with local and federal partners, and will be increasing patrols, as well as visible and plainclothes presence at critical locations. We are in communication with our partners at the L.A. Sheriff's Department and across law enforcement and will provide all support needed to ensure the safety and security of everyone attending today's events. And, as always everyone should remember, 'If You See Something, Say Something.'"

This story has been updated. 

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