SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com/AP) — An Indiana man arrested in Santa Monica Sunday with three assault rifles had been ordered by a judge in April to give up all his guns, but authorities in his home state said Monday they had not made any surprise checks to confirm he was following the probation requirement.
James Wesley Howell was arrested early Sunday 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.
He was arrested early in the morning after alarming Santa Monica residents by knocking on doors.
“Nobody has any business with me to come at 4:30 in the morning,” said a Santa Monica resident who asked not to be identified.
It’s unclear whether Howell 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, 20, 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.
The FBI is continuing to investigate.
“We have processed the vehicle and are consulting with prosecutors to determine if charges apply,” said Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles.
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 year-long 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.
Howell is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail and is scheduled to make a court appearance Tuesday.
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