- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2016

A man with assault weapons and a camouflage outfit in his car was arrested early Sunday, and initially said he wanted to attack the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade in West Hollywood, police said.

According to the Santa Monica Police Department, 20-year-old James Wesley Howell of Indiana had pipe bomb material in his trunk along with three assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“Man told @SantaMonicaPD officer of wanting to harm Gay Pride event during arrest for weapons and explosive materials possession,” tweeted Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.

However, her department later clarified that he only meant that he was going to the parade.

The arrest came as Omar Mateen, a man who reportedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State, attacked an Orlando gay club, killing 50 people and wounding 53 more in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.



There was no immediate indication of any link between the Santa Monica arrests and the Orlando attack or any suggestion of ties between Mr. Howell and Islamism as Mateen seemed to have.

“We believe [the arrests are] completely unrelated,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the opening of the parade, which went ahead as scheduled under tightened security.

Organizers of the Los Angeles parade said in a statement that “our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are.”

“We will be loud. We will be proud, and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost,” the statement said, dedicating the parade to the Orlando victims.

Mr. Howell was first reported as a prowler around 3 a.m. by neighbors who noted he had parked a white Acura sedan the wrong way, officials said.

Heriberto Gomez said to reporters that the man with the car saw him and then ran across the street and hid in bushes, looking back at Mr. Gomez.

“I was looking at him for a minute, for a long minute,” Mr. Gomez said. “He didn’t want to come my way because he seen me standing right here.”

Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez told reporters that when officers arrived to investigate, an assault rifle was visible in Mr. Howell’s passenger seat.

That prompted a thorough search of the vehicle and the reported statement about targeting the Gay Pride Parade, about seven miles away.

The FBI has taken over the lead of the investigation from the local police. Indiana State Police Capt. Dave Bursten referred all questions from The Associated Press about the investigation to authorities in California.

A Facebook page that is apparently Mr. Howell‘s, AP reported, shows a white Acura like the vehicle seized in California and pictures that resemble the police photo. The Facebook page shows no evidence of antipathy for gays or interest in Islamism.

According to the page, Mr. Howell lives in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and went to high school in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a job as an auditor at a air-filtration products company after having worked as a security guard.

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