Friend, ex-boyfriend have different takes on arrest of 'heavily armed' man headed to pride parade

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A “heavily armed” southern Indiana man arrested over the weekend on his way to a gay pride parade in California is expected in court on Tuesday.

James Howell, 20, was arrested Sunday in Santa Monica, when someone reported a possible prowler.

According to police, the Jeffersonville man had three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and ammunition in his white Acura, along with a five-gallon bucket containing chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device.

Santa Monica Police initially reported that Howell planned to “harm” people at the parade. The department later said that statement was incorrect, and the former Ballard High School student simply told officers that he was in the area to “look for a friend” at West Hollywood’s gay pride parade.

“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.

Dunn says Howell confided in him and the two were close friends.

“He started to come out to me about being bisexual, and preferring men. I’m not prejudice against that. We ended up pretty close. We talked about stuff,” Dunn described.

Howell’s 17-year-old ex-boyfriend who lives in Charlestown has a different take on the situation.

Several police reports filed in October 2015 show alleged domestic disputes between the two.

In one of those reports, Howell is accused of calling the teenager’s workplace and threatening the teen and other employees.

A few days later, another report says the 17-year-old went into Howell’s home to get his belongings, when Howell pointed a rifle at him.

The teenager claims the two met on a dating app, but that they have not spoken since mid-October when police advised them not to communicate.

“I can’t believe I was with somebody like that,” the 17-year-old said, not wanting to be identified. “I can’t believe that I wasted a month and a half of my life with someone like that… I do feel lucky. He could have hurt me even worse than he already did.”

Howell is being held in California on weapons and explosives charges.

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