An Indiana man who police said was arrested as he headed toward the LA Pride festival with an arsenal of weapons is being held in a California jail with bail set at $2 million.
James Wesley Howell pleaded not guilty to the charges against him Tuesday at the Los Angeles County Superior Court. A judge set the bail at Tuesday’s hearing.
Howell is charged with unlawful possession of an assault weapon, possession of a destructive device on a public street, manufacturing or importing large magazines and carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
So far, there is no connection to a deadly Sunday attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, and no conclusive connection to an LA Pride threat other than the man saying he planned to attend the festival, Los Angeles Interim Undersheriff Neal Tyler said.
If convicted, Howell could receive more than nine years in prison, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.
Officers arrested Howell in Santa Monica, California, about 5 a.m. PT Sunday after getting a call about a prowler, Tyler said. Howell told police he was looking for a friend to attend the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood, Tyler said.
A resident called police with a report of a man knocking on the resident’s door and window, the district attorney’s office said.
Police found Howell sitting in a car registered in Indiana. A search turned up three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device, officials said.
Early in the investigation authorities had sent mixed messages about whether he admitted planning an attack in the hours after a mass shooting in Florida that left 49 victims and one gunman dead and at least 53 victims injured.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said on Twitter that Howell told an officer during his arrest on weapons charges that he wanted “to harm Gay Pride event.”
But she provided no specifics and at a press conference later, Lt. Saul Rodriguez suggested the tweet may have been born from a miscommunication.
In a tweet Sunday evening, Seabrooks said, “Tweet should have read: Howell was going to event. He’s now being held on weapons & explosives charges.”
Rodriguez said authorities still did not know Howell’s intents and motivations.
The bomb squad was called to ensure the car and surrounding area were safe, Rodriguez said. The police department is coordinating the investigation with the FBI.
The sheriff’s office asked the public to remain vigilant and report any information about potential incidents to their local law enforcement. Information can be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or texting the letters TIPLA plus your tips to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.
CNN’s Kyung Lah contributed to this report.