Man going to gay pride event had rigged magazines - police
15 June 2016, 14:59
Los Angeles — Police found a loaded assault rifle with magazines
rigged to allow 60 shots to be fired in quick succession, along with 15 pounds
of chemicals mixed and ready to explode in the car of an Indiana man who said
he was headed to a gay pride event, authorities revealed on Tuesday.
James Wesley Howell, 20, of Charlestown, also had two other loaded
rifles, ammunition, a stun gun, a buck knife and a security badge when he was
arrested early on Sunday in Santa Monica, they said.
Howell made his initial court appearance on Tuesday and pleaded
not guilty to three felony weapons and ammunition charges. The judge set bail
Alone, each item found in Howell's car might not indicate anything
sinister, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz said. But
together, they "just don't pass the common sense test."
"I cannot in good conscience think of any reasonable reason
that somebody would be traveling across the country with all of these
things," he said.
Howell recently drove from Indiana to Los Angeles because of
pending charges against him in his home state, according to statements he made
Authorities haven't disclosed any evidence that Howell intended
violence at the LA Pride event in West Hollywood that attracts hundreds of
thousands of people.
Friends in Indiana described Howell as a gun enthusiast with a
short temper. In October, he twice was accused of pulling a gun and making
threats, once against his then-boyfriend and once against a neighbour.
Howell was convicted in April of misdemeanour intimidation for the
incident with his neighbour. Under the terms of his probation, Howell was not
allowed to have weapons or leave Indiana.
When he was picked up in Santa Monica, there was an assault rifle
in his car's passenger seat and 15 pounds of "Shoc-Shot," two
chemicals that explode when mixed and shot. The assault rifle was loaded with a
30-round magazine, which had another inverted 30-round magazine taped to it,
according to police.
Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said gun enthusiasts don't
mix Shoc-Shot until it's ready to be used, as federal regulations require, and
the amount that Howell had "far exceeds any amount that would reasonably
Howell's attorney, Pamela Jones, told the judge there was no
evidence Howell planned to detonate the chemicals. She said a black hood found
in his car was "just a clothing item," and nothing indicated Howell
planned to use it as a mask, as police contended was a possibility.
James Wedick, a former longtime FBI agent, said the manipulation
of the gun magazines would allow someone to reload 30 rounds in less than 2
"It doubles your killing capacity by 100 percent," he
said. For a civilian to have a weapon rigged as such, "it suggests his
purposes are deadly."
The FBI took the lead in the investigation and its probe
continues, spokesperson Laura Eimiller said.
Federal agents searched Howell's Jeffersonville, Indiana, home
Monday but declined to release any details.
Rebecca Lonergan, a former federal prosecutor who teaches national
security law at the University of Southern California, said filing the state
charges keeps Howell in custody while the FBI continues building its own
"In the atmosphere we have where there is such great concern
about active shooters, about terrorism, about hate crimes, both the state and
federal investigators are going to want to thoroughly look at this guy,"
On Tuesday, the sheriff's office in Clark County, Indiana, said
Howell also is the subject of a sexual assault investigation. The alleged
incident occurred May 31, about two weeks before Howell's arrest in California.