Man accused of taking chemicals, cache of weapons to L.A. went to Louisville high school

Man accused of taking chemicals, cache of weapons to L.A. went to Louisville high school
James Howell (Source: Santa Monica Police Department)
James Howell (Source: Santa Monica Police Department)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A man who police said was heavily-armed and heading to the Pride Parade in Los Angeles attended schools in Louisville and lives in Southern Indiana.

Police in Santa Monica, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday they were called to 11th Street at about 5 a.m. local time on a call about "suspicious circumstances." The area is just about 11 blocks from the well-known Santa Monica pier, and is where officers took 20-year-old James Howell into custody. (See a map)

The Santa Monica Police Department issued a release Sunday afternoon detailing what it found in his car, which has Indiana license plates:

Further investigation led to the recovery of three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and ammunition. Additionally, officers discovered a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device. All items were recovered from Howell's vehicle.

SMPD Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said on Twitter that Howell told one of the arresting officers he wanted "to harm Gay Pride event." However, a spokesman for that department later told WAVE 3 News' Eric Flack that Howell never made such a statement.

"She was given some information that was not correct," Lt. Saul Rodriguez said. "The only statement that he made to our officers was that he was here to go to the Pride festival. Beyond what his intentions were or what his motives were for going, we don't have any information as to what he was going there for."

Seabrooks has since posted several corrected tweets about the Howell arrest.

Howell has been arrested multiple times in Southern Indiana, and after one of those arrests, the Clark County Sheriff's Office confirmed he lived in Charlestown, while online court records list a Jeffersonville address. Howell attended Ballard High School and Kammerer Middle School in Louisville.

Both of these reports list his date of birth as March 31, 1996, which is the same DOB included in online jail records from a Los Angeles County report for a man named James Howell today.

Most recently, Howell was arrested in October, accused of intimidation and pointing a firearm at another. He accepted a plea deal in the case in April, the terms of which required Howell to forfeit all firearms for one year.

Rodriguez also told Flack that the FBI has joined his department in the investigation.

Howell currently faces three state weapons charges for possession of firearms, but if the FBI decides to file federal charges against Howell, the case would be passed up to the Assistant U.S. Attorney's Office.

It's not believed that Howell's alleged actions are connected to those of Omar Mateen, who killed 50 people and injured dozens more in an early-morning shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida. Police stormed in and shot him dead after a three-hour hostage situation.

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