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Indiana man who brought guns and explosives near 2016 L.A. Pride sentenced to 7 years in prison

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James Wesley Howell, 22, was sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday after he pleaded no contest to charges that he brought weapons and explosives to the 2016 Los Angeles Pride parade.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

An Indiana man who was headed toward L.A. Pride two years ago in a car filled with weapons, explosives and high-capacity magazines was sentenced to seven years in state prison on Thursday, officials said.

James Wesley Howell, 22, pleaded no contest to possession of an explosive chemical, malicious possession of a destructive device and illegal weapon activity, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Santa Monica police arrested Howell on June 12, 2016. Inside his car, police found three rifles — including an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 .223 caliber rifle that police described as an assault weapon — and two 30-round magazines.

In addition to the guns, Howell was also driving with a full five-gallon container of gasoline and a 25-pound container of “Shoc-shot,” a commercially sold two-component explosive that detonates when hit by a high-velocity rifle round, Santa Monica police said at the time.

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“The amount of explosives in the container would have posed a grave danger to both persons and property had the explosives been detonated, either intentionally or accidentally,” Santa Monica Det. Derek Leone wrote in a court filing in 2016.

Howell also had a black hood, a Taser, handcuffs, a Buck knife, a security badge and additional ammunition for the guns, court records show.

His arrest created a massive panic as it came just hours after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that claimed 49 lives. Santa Monica police also mistakenly tweeted that Howell intended to harm people at L.A. Pride.

It was later revealed police did not actually know why Howell was headed toward the event.

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Howell had no ties to California, and told police he was fleeing from potential criminal charges in his home state. He was later charged with molesting a 12-year-old girl in Henryville, Ind., court records show.

Investigators have not said what they believe Howell’s intentions were. The status of his criminal case in Indiana was not immediately clear, and the district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to additional questions.

james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.


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