SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A heavily armed Indiana man arrested Sunday on his way to a Southern California gay pride parade told police he wanted to do harm to the event, authorities said.
James Wesley Howell, 20, of Indiana was arrested about 5 a.m. after neighbors reported suspicious behavior on the street where he was parked the wrong way in a white sedan, Santa Monica police said in a statement.
In the car, officers found three assault rifles, high capacity magazines and ammunition and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device, police said.
Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that Howell told officers after he was arrested that he wanted to harm the gay pride event in West Hollywood that was taking place about seven miles away later Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the annual event.
His arrest came as the mass shooting that killed 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was still unfolding. Police said they have not found evidence of a connection between the California arrest and the killings.
Police would answer no further questions on Howell or his motives, deferring to the FBI, which has taken over the investigation.
At the scene, police searched a white four-door Acura sedan parked facing the wrong direction on a busy thoroughfare in a mostly residential area of the seaside city west of Los Angeles. There was a red plastic gas can near the car and items laid out on a white sheet next to it.
Heriberto Gomez, a lifelong resident who says he watches over the neighborhood, stepped outside at 3 a.m. Sunday and saw the white Acura sedan in the street.
Gomez said the man ran across the street and hid in bushes and overhanging trees. It appeared the man was looking back at him.
"I was looking at him for a minute, for a long minute," Gomez said. "He didn't want to come my way because he seen me standing right here."
The organizers of the Pride event said in a statement before the parade that "we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack." Organizers said the tragedy made them all the more determined to continue with plans.
"Our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are," the statement said. "We will be loud. We will be proud, and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost."
Myers reported from West Hollywood. Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed from Los Angeles.