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Man Who Was Headed to L.A. Pride Charged with Molestation 

Man Who Was Headed to L.A. Pride Charged with Molestation 

james wesley howell

James Wesley Howell drove to California to escape a molestation investigation in his home state of Indiana, suggests a prosecutor. 


Charges against James Wesley Howell, the 20-year-old bisexual man who told police he was on his way to L.A. Pride with a cache of weapons, are stacking up.

Howell was charged with one count of child molestation Wednesday in his home state of Indiana. He's accused of molesting a 12-year-old girl on a state forestry property May 31, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutor Jeremy Mull told the AP that Howell met the young girl through an adult friend and that a police detective interviewed him about the case June 7.

Mull told AP it's a "logical conclusion" that Howell drove to California to escape the child molestation investigation. The prosecutor says he intends to have Howell extradited back to Indiana.

Howell's neighbor Daniel Rumbley, who spoke with The Advocate Wednesday, suggests the man might have a lot to run from in his past.

"The kid needs to be behind jail," said Rumbley, "because he's already proved to not be a productive member of society." Rumbley, who has lived next to Howell for the past three years, said, "He just doesn't seem to have any respect for laws, rules, authority or anything like that at all."

Howell's next-door neighbor called himself "pro-gun" but emphasized that Howell "shouldn't have guns" -- not only because it violates his probation, but because he's "proven himself" to "use them in the wrong fashion."

Howell described his neighbor as a "weird kid" who other neighbors tried to avoid. He recalled a Memorial Day barbecue that went awry as the Howell family got into a heated argument and caused a "massive ordeal." Rumbley and Howell had a falling-out of their own and never reconciled.

"It just seems he was trying to get away from everything, but California is definitely a weird state to try do that from because you don't just randomly show up to California," said Rumbley, over the phone, noting "it's a three- or four-day drive" from Indiana.

Howell might be the only person who knows his true intent for driving to California with a car loaded with dangerous weapons. Police reported Sunday that Howell was found with three assault rifles and materials to create a pipe bomb. The bail deviation document released Tuesday showed the items in Howell's white Acura also included a black hoodie, taser, handcuffs, buck knife, security badge, and extra ammunition for the rifles. There was also a five-gallon container of gasoline "filled to the brim," as deputy district attorney Sean Carney described in court Tuesday.

Rumbley theorized it could all be a misunderstanding. The five-gallon tank of gas found in Howell's car could have been in case he "ran out of gas somewhere in the middle of the desert." And the tannerite he was carrying is used by a lot of gun enthusiasts, including Rumbley. Even the judge on Tuesday who raised Howell's bail from $500,000 to $2 million said he used tannerite and didn't consider that suspicious on its own, though it can be an ingredient in pipe bombs.

Rumbley doubts that Howell would've known the man behind the Orlando shootings, Omar Mateen, or been able to coordinate an attack on L.A. Pride in response to the Pulse shooting -- as some had worried when they heard of Howell's arrest.

When Howell was arrested Sunday, Santa Monica police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that he'd told police he was in town for West Hollywood's Pride event and expressed "of wanting to harm Gay Pride event." Later the tweet was deleted and corrected: "wrong on initial rpt of wanting to harm."

Authorities have since announced no connection between the shooting in Orlando and James Howell in Los Angeles.

He was formally charged with unlawful possession of the weapons. The judge who raised the bail to $2 million -- at the request of the district attorney's office, which called Howell a "danger to the community" -- emphasized his decision wasn't a reaction to Orlando.

"Given the current tenor of what's happening in the country, you can't use that ... as the reason for setting bail," said Judge Keith L. Schwarz in court.

The guns Howell had were purchased legally, Judge Schwarz noted, before underlining that the real factor guiding his decision in raising bail to $2 million was Howell having been convicted of a crime in October in Indiana that prohibited him from using or possessing weapons.

Howell was arrested on a felony charge last October for pointing a firearm and a misdemeanor charge of intimidation, reports The Indianapolis Star, and Howell pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to a year of probation, which included the condition that he "forfeit all weapons."

Plus Howell was described by Los Angeles officers as a "flight risk" if he were to get out of jail on bail. Only three days after Howell's plea in the October case, reports the Star, he was indicted in Kentucky on charges of reckless driving and fleeing or evading police.

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Yezmin Villarreal

Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.
Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.