On Sunday, authorities identified the “heavily armed” Indiana man arrested while in Santa Monica for the Los Angeles gay pride festival as 20-year-old James Wesley Howell, KTLA reports. Santa Monica Police initially said that Howell planned “to harm” the gay pride event before later stating his intentions were unclear.
According to the L.A. Times, police say they found Howell while responding to reports of a prowler at around 5 a.m. A subsequent search of his vehicle uncovered three rifles, “a lot” of ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket of tannerite, a target practice explosive.
Howell reportedly told police he was going to the pride parade to look for a friend. As the event comes just one day after the deadly mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, authorities have announced plans to increase security at the parade.
“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,” said the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in a statement. “Any possible nexus with this individual and the Pride event in West Hollywood is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
UPDATE 10:10 p.m.: Santa Monica Police have now confirmed that Howell never expressed intent to “harm” the parade. According to reports from the L.A. Times and the N.Y. Daily News, friends of the suspect say Howell is bisexual with a male partner and harbored no ill will towards gay and lesbians.
In October of last year, Indiana’s News and Tribune reported that Howell was arrested after allegedly pointing a handgun at his neighbors and his boyfriend. According to the L.A. Times, Howell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor intimidation over the incident in April, receiving a one-year suspended prison sentence and agreeing not to own any weapons while on probation.
Howell is currently being held on felony weapons and explosives charges. His bail has been set at $500,000.