Why was man traveling to California gay pride event with guns, explosives?
Police are looking for motive
Police believe James Wesley Howell likely had deadly motives when he was caught driving with explosives, guns, knives and ammunition on his way to a gay pride event in California.
The 20-year-old Indiana man was found with a loaded assault rifle in the passenger seat and 15 pounds of "Shoc-Shot," which are two mixed chemicals that explode when they are shot.
He was arrested Sunday morning just hours after an attack at a gay nightclub in Florida left 49 people dead and prompted increased security at the LA Pride event which attracts hundreds of thousands of people annually.
Police say he had two more loaded assault rifles, ammunition, a stun gun, a buck knife and a security badge.
Authorities have not yet disclosed if evidence existed that Howell had planned violence at the event, but Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz said at the scenario “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, setting bail at $2 million.
Howell pleaded not guilty to three felony weapons and ammunition charges and his attorney, Pamela Jobes, told the judge there was no evidence Howell planned to detonate the chemicals.
Former FBI agent, James Wedick, said the manipulation of the gun magazines would allow someone to reload 30 rounds of ammunition in less than 2 seconds.
"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."
Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney said gun enthusiasts typically don’t mix Shoc-Shot until it’s ready to be used because of federal regulations on the chemicals. Carney says the amount that was found in Howell’s car "far exceeds any amount that would reasonably be used."
A former federal prosecutor who teaches national security law at the University of Southern California said filing state charges ensures that Howell will stay in custody while the FBI builds a possible case.
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," she said.
This is not the first time Howell has landed himself in hot water as police say he has pending charges against him in his home state of Indiana.
In October, he was accused twice of pulling a gun and making threats against his then-boyfriend and once again against a neighbor. He was convicted in April of misdemeanor intimidation for the incident with his neighbor and under the terms of his probation, was not allowed to have weapons or leave Indiana.
Friends of Howell say he is a gun enthusiast with a short temper.
Howell is also the subject of a sexual assault investigation saying the incident occurred May 31.
Federal agents searched Howell's home in Jeffersonville, Indiana, on Monday but declined to release any details.
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