An Indiana man who said he was headed to a gay pride event had a loaded assault rifle with magazines rigged to allow 60 shots to be fired in quick succession, along with 15 pounds of chemicals mixed and ready to explode, according to police in California.
James Wesley Howell, 20, of Charlestown, also had two other loaded rifles, ammunition, a stun gun, a buck knife and a security badge when he was arrested early Sunday in Santa Monica, authorities said Tuesday.
Howell made his initial court appearance Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to three felony weapons and ammunition charges. The judge set bail at $2 million.
Alone, each item found in Howell’s car might not indicate anything sinister, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz said. But together, they “just don’t pass the common sense test.”
“I cannot in good conscience think of any reasonable reason that somebody would be traveling across the country with all of these things,” he said.
Howell recently drove from Indiana to Los Angeles because of pending charges against him in his home state, according to statements he made to police.
Authorities haven’t disclosed any evidence that Howell intended violence at the LA Pride event in West Hollywood that attracts hundreds of thousands of people.
Friends in Indiana described Howell as a gun enthusiast with a short temper. In October, he twice was accused of pulling a gun and making threats, once against his then-boyfriend and once against a neighbor.
Maybe we should have longer waiting periods for angry gay men who purchase weapons. If it saves just one life…
Greeson and others told IndyStar that Howell harbored no violent feelings toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In fact, they said, Howell is gay.
“He didn’t like anybody to know about it,” said Zach Hambrick, an ex-boyfriend from Charlestown. Hambrick said he met Howell on a dating app. Although the pair were happy at first, Hambrick said, things soon went south. They haven’t spoken in several months, Hambrick said.
“After things went bad, that’s when he started getting violent with me,” said Hambrick, 17. Asked about Howell’s arrest in Santa Monica, Hambrick said, “It didn’t surprise me. It didn’t surprise me at all.”