Santa Monica Police Arrest Man With Explosives, Guns Going to L.A. Pride

Gay Pride Parade - H Getty 2016
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It is unclear if a connection exists between the Orlando shooter and the man arrested by Santa Monica police.

Santa Monica police arrested a man who had explosives, assault rifles and ammunition and was planning to attend the L.A. Pride festival parade, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday morning during a press conference.

Police were called about the man who was in the area of Olympic Boulevard and 11th Street by a concerned citizen, Garcetti said. He told police he was waiting in the area for a friend.

"The suspect was arrested Saturday night," Garcetti said. 

The suspect has been identified as James Wesley Howell. 

In the suspect's car, police discovered three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and a five-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to make explosives, police said. 

The suspect said he was going to the Pride festival, but did not specify to police his plans, authorities said. 

Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that Howell told officers after he was arrested that he wanted to cause harm to the gay pride event in West Hollywood that was taking place about seven miles away on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the annual event.

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.

Photos from the scene posted to social media by a reporter show items from the suspect's car placed on the ground by police. 

"Police, suspicious of the man, checked his car and that is when they found the weapons and explosives," said Garcetti

"I want everyone here today to know we are safe, we are protected, our law enforcement officials are here," Garcetti said. 

This news comes hours after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub, where at least 50 people were fatally shot and more than 50 people were injured. The gunman was killed during a shootout with police.

It is unclear if a connection exists between the Orlando shooter and the man arrested by Santa Monica police. 

In addition to the increased security at Pride, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said more deputies would be in and around Universal Studios and Universal City on Sunday. 

Anaheim police said the department takes Disneyland security "very seriously" and the park would be closely watched, adding that the park always has a high police presence.