Indiana man charged after guns found before gay pride event
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Indiana man was charged Tuesday with three felony weapons violations after authorities say they found three assault rifles and explosive chemicals in his car before a major Los Angeles gay pride parade.
James Wesley Howell, 20, was charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with possessing an assault weapon, possessing a destructive device on a public street, and importing or manufacturing a large magazine. He was also charged with a misdemeanor count of possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
If convicted of all the charges, prosecutors say Howell could face up to nine years and eight months in prison.
Howell was set to appear in court later Tuesday. Prosecutors were asking that he be held on $2 million bail. It was unclear if Howell had an attorney.
Police say Howell was arrested early Sunday in Santa Monica with the weapons and explosives in a car he apparently drove from Indiana. He told police he was headed to a gay pride event in West Hollywood that attracts hundreds of thousands of people.
It's unclear whether Howell intended any violence at the LA Pride event, but the timing of the arrest — hours after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — put police and event organizers on heightened alert.
Federal agents searched Howell's Jefferson, Indiana, home on Monday after obtaining a search warrant, Indianapolis FBI office spokeswoman Wendy Osborne.
Osborne and Indianapolis U.S. attorney's office spokesman Tim Horty said they couldn't give any details on the search.
A message seeking comment from Howell's Kentucky attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said the federal investigation is ongoing.
Howell was not allowed to have weapons or leave Indiana because he was serving a year of probation following an April conviction in his home state on a misdemeanor intimidation charge.
An Indiana probation officer met with Howell three weeks ago, rated him a low-level offender, and had yet to schedule a surprise in-home visit to see if Howell had any weapons, said James Hayden, chief probation officer in Clark County.
Indiana authorities were seeking to have Howell returned to that state as a probation violator.
Court records in Indiana and friends depict Howell as a gun enthusiast with a quick temper.
Twice within four days last October he was accused of pulling a gun and making threats. The first incident involved Howell's then-boyfriend and the second a neighbor, identified in police records as Jeremy Hebert.
Howell was charged with intimidation in the case involving Hebert, a conviction that led to his yearlong probation and weapons prohibition.
Hebert remembered Howell being "hot-headed" but said he had no interest in pursuing an intimidation charge against him.
"I wasn't going to ruin his life for it," Hebert said, adding that he was fine as long as Howell didn't return to the neighborhood.
Prosecutors apparently pursued the case without Hebert.
Grace Logsdon, Howell's former roommate, said Howell owned five guns and liked to spend time at a shooting range. He enjoyed teaching Logsdon about guns, she said, but he had a bad temper.
During one trip to a gun range, she said Howell told her: "'I wish I could kill a lot of people.'"
Howell's ex-boyfriend, Richard Hambrick, described Howell as "explosive."
"He's got a lot of anger problems," Hambrick said.
Charlestown police Detective Capt. Chuck Ledbetter said the handgun Howell used in the intimidation case was the only one the department seized from him. A rifle that ex-boyfriend Hambrick said Howell pointed at him a day earlier wasn't seized because no arrest was made at the time, Ledbetter said.
Associated Press writers Tom Davies contributed from Indianapolis, Claire Galofaro contributed from Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles. AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press. DYLAN LOVAN, Associated Press.
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The Gayly - 6/14/2016 @ 3:14 p.m. CDT