In June 2016, authorities arrested an Indiana man with three assault rifles and chemicals used to make explosives in Southern California. The police suspect that he wanted to harm people at the gay pride parade – an annual event that draws thousands of people from all over the State.
James Wesley Howell, 20, was arrested early Sunday morning just a few hours after at least 52 people were shot to death at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. So far authorities have not discovered any connection between the two shooters.
Howell came under observation when local residents noticed suspicious behavior when he parked his white sedan the wrong way. As soon as law enforcement arrived, they discovered an assault rifle in the front passenger seat. This resulted in a more thorough search that revealed two more assault rifles, ammunition, high capacity magazine and a large bucket filled with chemicals that could have been used to make an explosive device.
Howell was arrested immediately. The suspect so much as confirmed that he did intend to harm the public participating in the gay pride event that was taking place in West Hollywood later that Sunday. However, there are conflicting reports that suggest that Howell initially told officers that he wanted to cause harm at the parade but later it was reported that this was inaccurate and only planned to attend the parade.
Local law enforcement have contacted the FBI and Indiana police to learn more about Howell, but so far have been tight-lipped about what they have discovered about him.
A search of the internet revealed a Facebook page of Howell with many images of his white Acura which appears to be the same car he was arrested in by Santa Monica police. The most recent Facebook post showed Howell posting a photo of Hilary Clinton and comparing her to Hitler. It appears that Howell was anti-Clinton and a pro-Bernie Sanders supporter but there does not appear to be any indication of anti-gay sentiments.
Howell’s Facebook profile information reveals that he lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana and went to school in nearby Kentucky. He had recently let his job as a security guard and was currently working as an auditor for a company that makes air filtration products.
Throughout the morning, Santa Monica police searched his car and residence. With the Florida tragedy in mind, most neighbors were vigilant and quickly became suspicious of Howell’s behavior and called police.
Police are encouraging the public to be extra vigilant about suspicious people in the wake of the Orlando shootings. Moreover, people who run the parades are also being told to be aware of strangers and suspicious people. The majority of gay people advocate love and peace.