Santa Monica police arrested a man Sunday morning for explosives and weapons possession, preventing a potential attack on the West Hollywood Gay Pride Parade.
SMPD officers arrested James Wesley Howell and recovered three assault rifles, high capacity magazines, ammunition and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device.
Officers were called to the scene at about 5 a.m. after Howell began knocking on random doors in the 1700 block of 11th Street.
Heriberto Gomez, a lifelong resident who says he watches over the neighborhood, stepped outside at 3 a.m. Sunday and saw Howell’s white sedan parked in the wrong direction on the street.
Gomez said Howell ran across the street and hid in bushes and overhanging trees prompting another neighbor to call the police.
Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks issued several updates via social media saying Howell, 20, told officers he wanted to harm the parade.
According to a press release provided by SMPD, local officers notified the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department (LASD) Bomb Squad who assisted in removal of the material. SMPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are collaborating during the on-going investigation.
The local arrest came hours after an attack on an Orlando gay nightclub that left 50 dead and dozens more injured, but local officials said there are no known connections between the two cases at this time.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said there were no specific or credible threats received by law enforcement for the greater Los Angeles area.
“The Department’s Operation Center is open and actively managing events surrounding the Gay Pride Parade and Festival in the city of West Hollywood. Hundreds of uniformed deputies are on-duty to ensure the safety of all those participating in this event. 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,” read a statement issued by the Sheriff’s Department.
“A male was detained in the city of Santa Monica this morning who was in possession of weapons and other dangerous material. Any possible nexus with this individual and the Pride event in West Hollywood is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
If anyone has any information regarding the Santa Monica arrest, they are asked to call Detective Dereck Leone (310) 458-8949, Sgt. Maury Sumlin (310) 458-8437 or FBI Spokesperson Laura Eimiller (310) 420-6441, during normal business hours. If suspicious activity is seen, the public should call the Santa Monica Police Communications Center at (310) 458-8491 or call 911 if the situation is an emergency.
Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.