Indiana man arrested with weapons on way to LA Pride sentenced to prison

James Wesley Howell

James Wesley Howell, an Indiana man who was on his way to the 2016 LA Pride when he was arrested in Santa Monica, where police seized weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials found in his car, was sentenced Wednesday. Photo: Santa Monica Police Department.

LOS ANGELES — An Indiana man who was on his way to the 2016 LA Pride in West Hollywood when he was arrested in Santa Monica, where police seized weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making materials found in his car, pleaded no contest to three counts Wednesday.

SENTENCED TO PRISON

In a negotiated plea agreement, James Wesley Howell, 22, was convicted of count each of unlawful assault weapon activity, possession of a destructive device, and malicious or reckless possession of a destructive device on a public street. Howell pleaded no contest to illegal assault weapon activity and possession of explosive chemicals.

Howell was immediately sentenced to seven years and four months by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathryn A. Solorzano at the Airport Branch Courthouse.

SANTA MONICA ARREST

Santa Monica police arrested Howell on June 12, 2016, near 11th Street and Olympic Boulevard after finding an assault rifle and a container of explosive chemicals in his vehicle.

The incident alarmed many people in the queer community because Howell was arrested about 5 a.m., just a few hours after 49 people were fatally shot at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Howell, said he planned on attending LA Pride, but made no reference to wanting to harm anyone, police said.

When officers arrived, they saw an assault rifle on the front seat of Howell’s white Acura sedan with Indiana license plates. After searching the car, officers found three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition along with a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could have been used to make an improvised explosive device, police said.

Howell also had a buck knife, a Taser, a black hood, handcuffs and a security badge in his car.

INDIANA CASE

One day after the charges were filed in June 2016, Howell was charged with sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl in his home state of Indiana, the Indianapolis Star reported.

According to the Star, Indiana officials believe Howell left for California after learning he was under investigation in the molestation case.

The status of the Indiana case was not immediately known.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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