SANTA MONICA — James Wesley Howell, the 20-year-old Indiana man arrested early Sunday with a car full of guns and potential explosives, told police he was on the way to the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade. And he may have been: he was gay.
Early reports by Santa Monica police suggested that Howell had intended to attack the parade, just hours after a Muslim man — who may also have been gay — carried out the worst mass shooting in American history at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.
However, police had to walk back that claim. One of Howell’s friends in Indiana spoke out in his defense, according to WDRB.com:
“It shocked me because I knew James is not that kind of guy,” said Kelly Dunn, Howell’s friend in southern Indiana. “They said he was on his way to shoot up people at a gay pride festival. I knew that’s not James.”
Dunn says he and Howell met a little more than a year ago, and they are both in several car clubs.
“I mean, he’s had those guns in his car since probably December, and the Tannerite’s been in there since probably January,” Dunn said.
However, one of Howell’s ex-boyfriends, Zack Hambrick, told the Indianapolis Star that Howell had violent tendencies:
“He didn’t like anybody to know about it,” said Zach Hambrick, an ex-boyfriend from Charlestown. Hambrick said he met Howell on a dating app. Although the pair were happy at first, Hambrick said, things soon went south. They haven’t spoken in several months, Hambrick said.
“After things went bad, that’s when he started getting violent with me,” said Hambrick, 17. Asked about Howell’s arrest in Santa Monica, Hambrick said, “It didn’t surprise me. It didn’t surprise me at all.”
Hambrick said his ex-boyfriend kept a collection of guns. In a small house Howell briefly shared with Hambrick in Charlestown, neighbors said, he kept a couple of handguns and a rifle displayed in his room.
“I don’t know why he had so many,” Hambrick said. “He didn’t hunt. He just had them.”
Howell was already on probation, and had been ordered by a judge in April to give up all of his guns. However, the Associated Press reports, authorities never checked to confirm he had given them up.
Howell is expected to appear in court Tuesday.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.