Indiana man facing weapons, explosives charges in connection with L.A. pride event is suspect in sexual assault case


James Howell

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An Indiana man facing charges of unlawful possession of an assault weapon and explosives after being arrested while en route to the L.A. Gay Pride Festival  is now also being investigated in a sexual assault case.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that James Wesley Howell, 20, is a suspect in an ongoing investigation of alleged sexual assault that occurred on May 31. The sheriff’s office said it is cooperating with the FBI investigation into the allegations.

Officials did not release details regarding the alleged sexual assault.

Howell was arrested by Santa Monica Police on Sunday, just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in US history at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Authorities say Howell stated he was on his way to the L.A. Gay Pride festival.

Howell is listed in a host of other police reports, many of them related to domestic disturbances with his ex-boyfriend, a 17-year-old Charleston resident. The teen spoke to CBS4, but doesn’t want his identity revealed. He said he and Howell met on a dating app and there was an “instant connection.” It wasn’t long though, before the teen discovered Howell’s violent tendencies.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced charges against Howell regarding his Sunday arrest.

He faces one felony count each of unlawful possession of an assault weapon, possession of a destructive device on a public street, manufacturing or importing large magazine and carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle. If he’s convicted, he faces up to nine years and eight months in local custody.

A judge has set Howell’s bail at $2 million, saying he poses “a significant public safety danger.”

Howell had a 25-pound container three-fifths full of  Shoc-Shot, a “binary explosive,” in his car, according to a statement from Santa Monica police Detective Derek Leone, supporting prosecutors’ request to increase Howell’s bail amount.

“The amount of explosives in the container would have posted a grave danger to both persons and property had the explosives been detonated, either intentionally or accidentally, in a public space,” Leone said.

Howell also had three rifles in the car, Leone said, including an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 .223-caliber rifle loaded with a 30-round detachable magazine with a second 30-round magazine taped to it. He also had a loaded, .30-06-caliber bolt-action rifle and a .22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle, according to the document.

Rounds from either of the first two rifles could have detonated the explosive, Leone said.

Howell also had a Taser, handcuffs, a buck knife, a security badge, a black hoodie, more ammunition and a 5-gallon container of gasoline.

“Based on this combination of materials, it is my opinion that the defendant poses a significant danger to the community,” Leone said.

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