A “heavily armed” man who told police he wanted to go the L.A. Pride festival was arrested in Santa Monica, authorities said Sunday, the same day as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.
Officers responded to the 1700 block of 11th Street, near Olympic Boulevard, after residents reported a possible prowler shortly around 5 a.m., according to Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks and a news release from the department.
The suspect was knocking on a resident’s door and window, which prompted the 911 call, the release stated.
Officers responded to the location and made contact with James Wesley Howell, who was seated in a car with Indiana license plates, according to the release.
During the subsequent investigation, police found three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition and a five-gallon bucket “with chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device,” authorities said.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was sent to the scene to render the car and the area safe, the release stated.
Seabrooks later tweeted that Howell, of Indiana, allegedly told an officer “of wanting to harm Gay Pride event during arrest for weapons and explosive materials possession.”
But at a news conference just before 3 p.m., a male Santa Monica police official clarified the information, saying the man referenced the pride festival, but said he did not state his intentions beyond that.
“We did not have any additional information as to what his intentions were,” the official said, describing the earlier tweet as a “misquote.”
The investigation into a possible motive was ongoing.
The 20-year-old man was booked into jail around 11:30 a.m. and is behind held on $500,000 according to L.A. County inmate records. His first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier confirmed the incident during a news conference in West Hollywood shortly before the parade’s scheduled kickoff at 10:45 a.m.
“Today, we were also informed of … an individual here … who said he was coming to Pride, and who was heavily armed and apprehended by Santa Monica Police Department officials last night,” the mayor said.
In a statement released a short time after the mayor’s comments, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the male was “in possession of weapons and other dangerous material.”
James Howell held on weapons and explosive materials charges. Stated intent: go to Gay Pride event; wrong on initial rpt of wanting to harm
— Kenneth Semko (@SantaMonicaCoP) June 13, 2016
The announcement came hours after a shooting rampage at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, left 50 people dead and at least 53 others injured. The shooting rampage is the deadliest on American soil since the attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino last December.
Garcetti said the incident was not linked to the deadly attack in Orlando, while Seabrooks added that he had “no known connect” to Florida.
There were “no known credible threats” to the area following the Orlando attack, according to the Sheriff’s Department’s statement.
Security tightened at the parade, which went off after federal and local law enforcement decided not to cancel the annual event, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We are here … to say as Americans, we will not shrink away, we will not be stuck in our homes, we will not go back into the closets; we are out here to march, to celebrate and to mourn,” Garcetti said.
The Santa Monica incident remained under investigation by police, the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.