Armed man going to LA Pride parade twice accused of gun threats

130197 full

Police and FBI agents were working to figure out why a man from Indiana had three assault rifles and chemicals used in making explosives in his car some 2,000 miles from home on Sunday in Santa Monica, where he told the officers arresting him that he was headed to a gay pride parade. Court records show James Wesley Howell was twice accused of threatening people with a gun last year. In the second case, involving a neighbor, he was charged with intimidation and reached a plea deal that placed him on probation and prohibited him from having weapons. Authorities said Monday they will try to revoke Howell's probation.

Updates

Updated 11:05 a.m.: Authorities could revoke Howell's probation

Authorities say they'll try to revoke the probation of an Indiana man arrested with a cache of weapons and ammunition who said he was headed to a California gay pride parade.

The chief probation officer in Clark County, Indiana, says 20-year-old James Wesley Howell didn't have permission to leave the state following his guilty plea in April to a misdemeanor intimidation charge.

James Hayden says Howell met on May 22 with a probation officer, who rated him a low-level offender. Hayden says officers hadn't yet conducted a surprise home visit to check that Howell was following a judge's order not to have weapons during his one-year probation.

Howell was arrested Sunday in Santa Monica with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, and explosive chemicals.

Updated 10:41 a.m.: Heavily armed man twice accused of gun threats

Court records show the Indiana man arrested with a cache of weapons and ammunition who said he was headed to a California gay pride parade was twice accused of threatening people with a gun last year.

Police in Charlestown, Indiana, say the first incident involved James Wesley Howell's boyfriend last October and the second involved a neighbor four days later.

Howell was charged with intimidation in the second case and reached a plea deal that placed him on probation and prohibited him from having weapons.

The 20-year-old was arrested Sunday in Santa Monica with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, and explosive chemicals.

Santa Monica police said Howell told them he was in town for the annual gay pride parade in West Hollywood. Police haven't said whether Howell had any plans to use the weapons.

Updated 8:39 a.m.: Family of armed man going to parade shocked

A lawyer for a heavily armed Indiana man who told police he was headed to a gay pride parade when they arrested him in California says the suspect's father is cooperating with the FBI.

Louisville, Kentucky, attorney Bobby Boyd tells station WDRB-TV that the father of James Wesley Howell is shocked by his 20-year-old son's arrest and is talking to investigators. Boyd asked that the father not be identified.

Howell was arrested Sunday with a car full of assault rifles and chemicals used in making explosives. He told police he was going to LA Pride in West Hollywood, an event that draws hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Boyd, who represented Howell in a Kentucky case, says Howell is trying to find an attorney in California. He's scheduled to appear in Los Angeles court Tuesday.

7:03 a.m.: Indiana man arrested in Santa Monica with guns, chemicals

Police and FBI agents were working to figure out why a man from Indiana had three assault rifles and chemicals used in making explosives in his car some 2,000 miles from home in Southern California, where he told the officers arresting him that he was headed to a gay pride parade.

Santa Monica police and the FBI, which was leading the investigation, were examining the intentions of James Wesley Howell, 20, who told police he was going to LA Pride in West Hollywood, an event that annually draws hundreds of thousands of people. His arrest came just a few hours after at least 50 people were shot and killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, though police said they had found no evidence of a connection between the events.

Howell, of Jeffersonville, was arrested around 5 a.m. after residents called police to report suspicious behavior by a man who parked his white Acura sedan facing the wrong way.

Santa Monica resident Kelsey Mitchell told KPCC's media partner NBC4 that she was woken up at 4:40 a.m. by a knock at her door.

"Better be safe than sorry. Just don't answer, don't even look out the window and I just went straight upstairs," she said.

When officers arrived they saw an assault rifle sitting in Howell's passenger seat, Santa Monica police Lt. Saul Rodriguez said.

That prompted them to search the whole car. They found two more assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device, police said.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks initially tweeted that Howell told officers he wanted to "harm" the gay pride event, but she later corrected her statement to say only that Howell said he was going to the parade.

A Facebook page that apparently is Howell's includes photos of the white Acura he was driving in Santa Monica. The postings are unremarkable. There's no enmity toward gays or notable political activism. One post says he's signing a petition to legalize marijuana.

The page's most recent public post, from June 3, shows a photo comparing an Adolf Hitler quote to one from Hillary Clinton. An anti-Clinton, pro-Bernie Sanders photo was posted in February.

The site said Howell worked as an auditor for a company that makes air filters.

Howell was charged in October in Clark County, Indiana, with pointing a firearm at someone, and with intimidation. He made a deal with prosecutors in April to plead guilty only to the misdemeanor intimidation charge. He was given one-year prison sentence that the judge suspended in favor of strict probation that prohibited him from having weapons.

A friend of Howell's, 18-year-old Joseph Greeson, said Howell's parents in Jeffersonville hadn't seen him for days and that they called Greeson's parents looking for him. Greeson told the Los Angeles Times that he and Howell are in a car club together and that Howell had a gun collection.

Greeson also said Howell harbored no ill will for gays or lesbians.

The event continued as usual, albeit with increased security. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the arrest at the start of the parade and struck a defiant tone.

"We are here as Angelenos, as the LGBT community and allies," he said. "And we will not shrink away, we will not be stuck in our homes, we will not go back into our closets. We're here to march, to celebrate and to mourn."

Carl Oliver of Los Angeles attends the parade every year. He said he cried after hearing about Orlando, but he never considered not coming.

"This is about love," he said. "We have to show our love and unity."

Associated Press reporters Christopher Weber and Andrew Dalton contributed to this story. Dalton reported from Los Angeles.

This story has been updated.

With contributions from KPCC staff

blog comments powered by Disqus