An Indiana man who was bound for the L.A.Pride parade in West Hollywood when he was arrested in Santa Monica, where police seized weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials found in his car, was ordered today to stand trial.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra found sufficient evidence to require James Wesley Howell, 20, to proceed to trial on one felony count each of possession of a destructive device on a public street, possession of an assault weapon and manufacturing or importing a high-capacity magazine, along with a misdemeanor count of possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle, according to Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney. Howell remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail while awaiting arraignment March 28 at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles.
Howell was arrested shortly before 6 a.m. last June 12 by Santa Monica police in the 1700 block of 11th Street, near Olympic Boulevard — hours after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., left 49 people and the gunman dead. Howell was found sitting in his car when officers responded to a report of a man knocking on a resident’s door and window. Officers examined Howell’s white Acura sedan with Indiana license plates and recovered three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition along with a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could have been used to make an improvised explosive device, police said. The sheriff’s department bomb squad was called to help make sure the vehicle and area were safe.
According to court documents, Howell also had a buck knife, a Taser, a black hood, handcuffs and a security badge in his car. Howell told police he was planning to attend the 46th annual L.A. Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood, but made no reference to doing harm there, according to Santa Monica police Lt. Saul Rodriguez. Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and Rodriguez said there was no known connection between Howell and the mass shooting in Orlando. Security was increased at the L.A. Pride festival as a result of the Orlando massacre and Howell’s arrest.
During Howell’s arraignment last June 14, the prosecutor said the defendant had 20 pounds of explosive mix in his car, along with five gallons of gasoline — materials that could create an explosive similar to the one used in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Some of the materials were already mixed in a bucket in the car, the prosecutor said.
One day after the charges were filed against him in Los Angeles, Howell was charged with sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl in Indiana, the Indianapolis Star reported last year. According to the Star, Indiana officials believe Howell left for California after learning he was under investigation in the molestation case. Citing court documents and the victim’s family, the newspaper also reported that Howell threatened to kill himself, members of the victim’s family and police if they tried to arrest him. The status of the Indiana case was not immediately known.