LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11 / CNS) - An Indiana man who was bound for the LA Pride parade in West Hollywood and was allegedly carrying weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials in his car was charged today with various weapons-possession counts.
From Phil Shuman:
For now, only James Howell knows why he did what he did, and what he was planning. Why did he load up his car with assault rifles, explosives, gasoline, multiple high capacity magazines, handcuffs, a Taser, a black hood, a security badge and drive from his Indiana home to Los Angeles?
If it wasn't for a Santa Monica resident who called Police at 5 am in the morning on Sunday, he might have succeeded in wreaking all kinds of deadly havoc. The Deputy D.A. would only say ''It's all still under investigation'' when I asked him in court today ''why''. The D.A. did succeed in convincing the judge to increase Howell's bail from $500,000 to 2 million dollars, agreeing with the prosecution that he was a ''grave danger'' to the community.
James Wesley Howell, 20, was charged with one count each of possession of a destructive device on a public street, possession of an assault weapon, manufacturing or importing a high-capacity magazine and possession of a firearm in a vehicle.
He is expected to be arraigned sometime today at the Airport Branch Courthouse. He faces up to nine years and eight months behind bars if convicted, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Howell was arrested around 5 a.m. Sunday in the 1700 block of 11th Street, near Olympic Boulevard -- hours after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, left 49 people and the gunman dead.
Wesley was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, but prosecutors plan to ask that his bail be increased to $2 million.
Although he was charged in state court, federal authorities were continuing to investigate Howell, suggesting he might face federal charges as well. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the bureau's Indianapolis field
office executed a federal search warrant at Howell's residence in Clark County, Indiana, Monday night.
"Mr. Howell has not been charged federally at this time, however, the investigation is continuing," Eimiller said.
Police said Howell was found sitting in his car when officers responded to a report of a man knocking on a resident's door and window.
Officers examining Howell's white Acura sedan with Indiana license plates recovered three assault rifles, high capacity magazines and ammunition along with a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could have been used to make an improvised explosive device, police said. The sheriff's department bomb squad was called to help make sure the vehicle and area were safe, police said.
Howell told police he was planning to attend the 46th annual LA Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood, but made no reference to doing harm there, according to Santa Monica police Lt. Saul Rodriguez. "He did not make any additional statements saying he was going to do anything further than" attend the event, Rodriguez said. Police said Howell and his car were found about seven miles from the event, police said.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and Rodriguez said there was no known connection between Howell and the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed and 53 wounded in the nation's worst mass shooting.
Security was increased at Sunday's LA Pride festival as a result of the Orlando massacre and Howell's arrest.
Howell was arrested less than a year ago for allegedly pointing a gun at his neighbors, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited Indiana court records. He was charged in October with felony intimidation and pointing a firearm at another person.
On April 19, Howell accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor intimidation, was sentenced to a year in state prison but was placed on probation, the newspaper reported. Howell agreed to forfeit all weapons during probation.
Authorities in the Southland have been trying to determine Howell's intentions.
Joseph Greeson, 18, a friend of Howell's and a fellow car club member, said Howell didn't harbor any ill will toward gays or lesbians and that he is bisexual, The Times reported.
On Monday, the Walt Disney Co. announced that it had increased security at its theme parks. "Unfortunately we've all been living in a world of uncertainty, and during this time we have increased our security measures across our properties, adding such visible safeguards as magnetometers, additional canine units, and
law enforcement officers on site, as well as less visible systems that employ state-of-the-art security technologies," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said in a statement.
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