Police in Santa Monica, Calif., today arrested a man who said he was headed for the Pride celebration in West Hollywood — with assault rifles and a substance that could be used for explosives.
The arrest in the Los Angeles suburb came in the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., but authorities have made no connection between the two incidents, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Police encountered the man, now identifed as James Wesley Howell, when responding to a call about a suspected prowler knocking on doors and windows early this morning. Howell, who was in a car with Indiana license plates, told the officers he was waiting for a friend. The police then inspected his car and found “several weapons and a lot of ammunition as well as tannerite, an ingredient that could be used to create a pipe bomb,” the Times reports. “They found him with weapons that were very disconcerting,” a source told the paper.
Howell said he was in town for the L.A. Pride parade, which takes place today in West Hollywood. West Hollywood city officials and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are stepping up security for the event.
The FBI is collaborating with the Santa Monica Police Department on the investigation regarding Howell. Anyone with information is asked to call Santa Monica Det. Dereck Leone at (310) 458-8949 or Sgt. Maury Sumlin at (310) 458-8437, or FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller at (310) 420-6411, all during regular business hours. For any reports of suspicious activity in the city, call the police department at (310) 458-8491, or 911 if the situation is an emergency.
Christopher Street West, the organization behind L.A. Pride, released this statement on the Orlando tragedy and vowed that Pride would go on as scheduled:
“Forty-six years ago, members of the LGBTQ community came out in cities across the country in response to the Stonewall riots. Today, we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters. and allies were lost in this tragic attack. As we remember them today at our moment of silence, we must continue to show our pride, not just today but every day.
“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.” There was a moment of silence at 10:45 a.m., before the parade stepped off.
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others addressed the situation in a press conference just before the parade; see video at the bottom of this page.
Pride events are happening in several other cities today, with increased security expected. Washington, D.C., police announced they will have an increased presence at today’s Capital Pride. Mayor Muriel Bowser emphasized, however, that the event will go on, saying Washingtonians “will not be deterred by hate as we gather to celebrate love.”