UPDATE at 2:40 p.m. Monday, June 13, 2016: Police say the suspect did not threaten to harm people at Gay Pride. See details at the bottom.
Sheriff's officials said in a statement today that they are investigating “any possible nexus” between a suspect found in Santa Monica with three assault rifles and material that could be used for an explosive device and a gunman who killed 50 people at an Orlando nightclub overnight — the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Twenty-year-old Indiana man James Wesley Howell was arrested at 4:59 a.m. after Santa Monica police went to the 1700 block of 11th Street to check out a report of a man knocking on a residential door, according to the Santa Monica Police Department statement.
Cops say they found those rifles, high-capacity clips, ammunition and “a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device” in the suspect's vehicle, the department stated.
The FBI was called in to assist. Santa Monica police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said on Twitter that Howell might have wanted to cause “harm” at the “Gay Pride event” in West Hollywood this weekend.
The annual festivities in West Hollywood culminated today with a parade down Santa Monica Boulevard.
The reported Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire at a gay nightclub in Florida. Fifty-three additional people were wounded. It was reported that Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Today's WeHo parade was met with extra police.
“While there are no specific or credible threats received by law enforcement for the Greater Los Angeles area, our personnel maintain a heightened state of situational awareness and remain vigilant in the protection of our communities,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. “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.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said today that the city's police department would pay extra attention to “critical locations.”
“Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors in Orlando, an attack not just on our LGBT brothers and sisters but on all of us,” he said. “As we mourn the dead and tend to the injured and bereaved, we redouble our commitment to the essence of America — diversity and inclusion make our nation strong.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Greater Los Angeles is planning a prayer vigil for the Orlando victims at 7 p.m. at Baitul Hameed Mosque, 11941 Ramona Ave., Chino.
UPDATE at 2:40 p.m. Monday, June 13, 2016: Santa Monica police Lt. Saul Rodriguez later said that the suspect simply said he was headed to Gay Pride — that he did not express any intention to do harm. The matter was still under investigation.
Howell, booked on suspicion of weapons and explosive materials violations, was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to sheriff's inmate records. He was scheduled to appear in Superior Court near LAX tomorrow.
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