Man caught with rifles intended to target gay pride parade
A heavily armed Indiana man arrested yesterday on his way to a Southern California gay pride parade told police he wanted to do harm to the event, authorities said.
James Wesley Howell (20) of Indiana was arrested at about 5am after neighbours reported suspicious behaviour on the street where he was parked the wrong way in a white sedan, Santa Monica police said.
In the car, officers found three assault rifles, high capacity magazines and ammunition and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device, police said.
Santa Monica police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that Mr Howell told officers after he was arrested that he wanted to harm the gay pride event in west Hollywood that was taking place about seven miles away.
Hundreds of thousands of people attend the annual event.
Police said they had not found evidence of a connection between the California arrest and the killings at the nightclub in Orlando.
Police would answer no further questions on Howell or his motives, deferring to the FBI, which has taken over the investigation.
At the scene, police searched a white four-door sedan parked facing the wrong direction on a busy thoroughfare in a mostly residential area of the seaside city west of Los Angeles.
There was a red plastic gas can near the car and items laid out on a white sheet next to it.
Heriberto Gomez, a lifelong resident, saw the white Acura sedan in the street.
Mr Gomez said the man ran across the street and hid in bushes and overhanging trees. It appeared the man was looking back at him.
“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 saw me standing right here.”
Referring to the nightclub attack, the organisers of the Pride event said in a statement that “we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack”.
They said the tragedy made them all the more determined to continue with their plans.
“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 honour of all those lost,” the organisers added.