James Wesley Howell, a 20-year-old Indiana man, was arrested in California on Sunday while headed toward the LA Pride festival, allegedly with an arsenal of weapons.
Officers arrested Howell about 5 a.m. PT after getting a call about a prowler, Los Angeles Interim Undersheriff Neal Tyler said. Howell told police he was looking for a friend to attend the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood, Tyler said.
Police found him sitting in a car registered in Indiana and a search turned up three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device, officials said.
So far, there is no connection to the attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando, and no conclusive connection to an LA Pride threat other than the man saying he was there to attend the festival, Tyler said.
Early in the investigation authorities had sent mixed messages about whether he admitted planning an attack in the hours after a mass shooting in Florida that left 50 dead and at least 53 injured.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said on Twitter that Howell told an officer during his arrest on weapons charges that he wanted “to harm Gay Pride event.”
But she provided no specifics and at a press conference three hours later, Lt. Saul Rodriguez suggested the tweet may have been born from a miscommunication.
In a tweet Sunday evening, Seabrooks said, “Tweet should have read: Howell was going to event. He’s now being held in weapons & explosives charges.”
Rodriguez said authorities still did not know Howell’s intents and motivations.
The bomb squad was called to ensure the car and surrounding area were safe, Rodriguez said. The police department is coordinating the investigation with the FBI.
Police records show Howell is being held on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate KABC.
Authorities are searching for a friend of the man to question, he said.
The FBI’s Deirdre Fike said there was no known credible threat in the Los Angeles area, and no known connection to the Orlando attack, which took 50 lives and left 53 people wounded at a gay nightclub early Sunday.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, however, announced it was taking extra precautions at the LA Pride Parade and Festival, with “hundreds of uniformed deputies” on duty.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our security presence for the event and have tactical units at the ready to prevent and respond to any circumstances,” the sheriff’s office said. “Any possible nexus with this individual and the Pride event in West Hollywood is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The sheriff’s office asked the public to remain vigilant and report any information about potential incidents to their local law enforcement. Information can be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or texting the letters TIPLA plus your tips to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.