After Orlando massacre, man with ‘weapons,’ ‘dangerous material’ detained in California

Published: 6/13/2016 12:04:37 AM

Authorities in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday detained a “heavily armed” man who had plans to go to a major Los Angeles-area pride event, stirring concerns about safety in the wake of the early morning mass shooting at a gay club in Florida.

The individual, identified as James Howell, 20, told a police officer he wanted to “harm” the gay pride event, according to the Santa Monica Police Department. He appeared to be unrelated to the Orlando shooting, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Any possible nexus with this individual and the Pride event in West Hollywood is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the sheriff’s department said in its release.

He had “weapons and other dangerous material,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release, and was detained in Santa Monica on Sunday morning.

News of the arrest in California came hours after 50 people were killed and 53 others injured at Pulse, a gay bar and dance club in Orlando. The mass shooting was deemed the deadliest in U.S. history.

“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,” said the statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this horrific attack which occurred in Orlando early this morning,” the release stated. “While there are no specific or credible threats received by law enforcement for the greater Los Angeles area, our personnel maintain a heightened state of situational awareness and remain vigilant in the protection of our communities.”

Santa Monica police spokesman Saul Rodriguez told the Washington Post that police were contacted about 5 a.m. after someone spotted a man loitering and knocking on a door in a residential neighborhood. When authorities arrived on scene, they found him near his car.

“The officers who responded began questioning the individual, at which point they noticed a handgun or weapon visible in plain sight,” Rodriguez said.

Police searched the car and found more weapons and chemicals that can be used to create an “IED-type of device,” he said.

The arrest triggered a call to the Los Angeles County bomb squad, which was still examining the parked car as of 11:45 a.m., he said.

West Hollywood resident Michael Lamar said a contingent of his friends from Ventura, roughly 60 miles away, decided not to come to this year’s festivities.

“They fear that it’s maybe a little bit too risky to come,” said Lamar, 33, speaking by phone from a house party in the area.

Lamar said while the horrific shooting was on everybody’s minds-and though this year’s festivities were marked by the presence of military vehicles – he did not feel unsafe. “I’m at a house party - they have the news playing,” he said. “I think this will unite people a little bit more.”


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