CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (AP) — A man arrested in Southern California with three assault rifles who told police he was headed to a gay pride event had earlier been ordered by a judge in his home state of Indiana to give up all his guns.
But authorities there said Monday that they didn’t make any surprise checks on James Wesley Howell to confirm he was following the probation requirement.
Howell has a California court appearance tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, but it wasn’t yet clear what charges he’ll face, if any.
He was arrested early Sunday in Santa Monica with the weapons and explosives in a car he apparently drove from Indiana. He told police he was headed to a gay pride event in West Hollywood that attracts hundreds of thousands of people.
It’s unclear whether Howell, 20, intended any violence at the LA Pride event, but the timing of the arrest — hours after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — put police and event organizers on heightened alert.
An Indiana probation officer met with Howell of Charlestown, Indiana, three weeks ago, rated him a low-level offender, and had yet to schedule the in-home visit, said James Hayden, chief probation officer in Clark County.
Howell didn’t have permission to leave Indiana after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor intimidation charge. Authorities there are seeking to have him returned as a probation violator.
Court records in Indiana and friends depict Howell as a gun enthusiast with a quick temper.
Twice within four days last October he was accused of pulling a gun and making threats. The first incident involved Howell’s then-boyfriend and the second a neighbor, identified in police records as Jeremy Hebert.
Howell was charged with intimidation in the case involving Hebert, a conviction that led to his yearlong probation and weapons prohibition.
Hebert remembered Howell being “hot-headed” but said he had no interest in pursuing an intimidation charge against him.
“I wasn’t going to ruin his life for it,” Hebert said, adding that he was fine as long as Howell didn’t return to the neighborhood.
Prosecutors apparently pursued the case without Hebert.
Grace Logsdon, Howell’s former roommate, said Howell owned five guns and liked to spend time at a shooting range. He enjoyed teaching Logsdon about guns, she said, but he had a bad temper.
During one trip to a gun range, she said Howell told her: “I wish I could kill a lot of people.”
She said Howell lived in a duplex apartment with Logsdon, her husband and Howell’s now-former boyfriend late last year.
Howell’s ex-boyfriend, Richard Hambrick, described Howell as “explosive.”
“He’s got a lot of anger problems,” Hambrick said.
He added that he doesn’t know why Howell was in California.
“As far as I know he had no connections there with any family or friends,” Hambrick said.
Charlestown police Detective Capt. Chuck Ledbetter said the handgun Howell used in the intimidation case was the only one the department seized from him. A rifle that ex-boyfriend Hambrick said Howell pointed at him a day earlier wasn’t seized because no arrest was made at the time, Ledbetter said.
A lawyer who represented Howell in Kentucky said that he is looking for a lawyer in California.
Attorney Bobby Boyd told WDRB-TV that Howell’s father is cooperating with the FBI and was shocked by his son’s arrest.
Associated Press writers Tom Davies contributed from Indianapolis, Claire Galofaro contributed from Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.