Armed Man Arrested in Santa Monica Following Orlando Massacre
A man with plans to attend the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade in West Hollywood was arrested in Santa Monica with a car full of weapons just hours after the tragic shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. After a neighbor contacted authorities about a possible prowler, James Howell, an Indiana man with no connections to Santa Monica, was taken into custody.
Authorities searched Howell’s vehicle, a white Acura with Indiana plates which was parked in the wrong direction along 11th Street near Michigan Ave., where police found three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and ammunition along with chemicals that could be used to make explosives. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department identified the chemical as Tannerite.
It was originally reported that Howell said he was “wanting to harm” people at the LA Pride parade, but Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has since issued a correction saying, “He said he was going to the event,” with no additional statements offering clarity on why his vehicle was filled with weapons.
Local resident Jack Barry, who lives behind the building where Howell was arrested, expressed how thankful he is that authorities stopped the suspect before he had the opportunity to act out.
Barry, recognizing both the dangers that James Howell presented locally and that of the Orlando tragedy in Florida, said that “shootings can happen anywhere” and we shouldn't get locked into the thought that it is a specific place where this happens.
Howell was arrested early Sunday morning and faces charges of possessing weapons and explosive material with his bail set at $500,000.
At this point authorities say it appears there is no apparent connection to Orlando.
After the Orlando tragedy where at least 49 people were killed, authorities in Santa Monica were concerned Howell may have had plans to harm people at the LA pride event. West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath made a statement that security at LA Pride would be heightened. While authorities were visible, they did seem to keep the tone to a minimal so as not to take away from the festivities of the event.
Many LA Pride attendees felt shocked by the news of what happened in Orlando and thought twice about attending. Kristen Boggs Jaeger, 32, a resident of West Hollywood, came out to LA Pride with a sign that read “You are beautiful #Pray for ORLANDO.”
Jaeger said, "You can’t stop love, it will always win.” A woman who goes by the name of Birtha D. was speaking with Jaeger and admitted that she did have concerns about attending Pride when she heard that somebody targeted a gay bar in Orlando. However, she also felt compelled to come out and show love and support knowing how important this event is.
In the end, the festivities in West Hollywood went on as planned with no issue. People enjoyed the day while also showing their respect to those who lost their lives in Orlando. People came with messages on their signs as well as chalk to write on the sidewalk. Sister Gaia Love from the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence handed out chalk to those who wanted to leave a message of love to Orlando on the sidewalk along Santa Monica Blvd. at San Vicente. Sister Gaia Love said, “We are going to fight hate with love and we are going to remember the lives that were lost”.