UPDATE, 2:50 PM: James Howell told police he “wanted to harm the LA Pride” parade, rep Saul Rogriguez said this afternoon at a news conference to update media on this morning’s arrest. They said they knew of no connection between the incident and the shootings in Orlando. Howell is from Indiana and the vehicle he was driving has Indiana plates. It contained several firearms, three assault rifles, high powered magazines, and chemicals that could be used to make an explosive device. Howell was taken into custody in Santa Monica this morning after discovering his arms-laden vehicle and he said he planned to head to the LA Pride Festival.
PREVIOUS, 10:55 AM: The 46th annual LA Pride Parade began in West Hollywood at 1o:45 AM with a moment of silence for the 50 victims of this morning’s shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando:
More than 400,000 people were expected to line Santa Monica Boulevard for the annual celebration that carried on despite the early-morning shooting – the deadliest in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, a suspect was taken into custody in Santa Monica this morning after discovering his vehicle contained “explosive powder” and “assault weapons” and that he planned to head to the LA Pride Festival. Authorities said the city is on heightened alert, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the incident appears to be unrelated to the Orlando shooting.
“Forty six years ago, members of the LGBTQ community came out in cities across the country in response to the Stonewall Riots,” LA Pride President Chris Classen said this morning. “Today, we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack. As we remember them today at our moment of silence, we must continue to show our pride, not just today but every day…Our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are. We will be loud. We will be proud and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost.”
Added Garcetti, “Once again, a shocking act of violence forces us to reflect on the price of allowing easy access to fearsome weaponry. We must distinguish between the freedom to bear arms and the irresponsible policies that open the way, again and again, for our enemies to turn their hatred into explosions of deadly mass violence.”
West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath said in a statement that Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials are stepping up security efforts around today’s parade and other festivities. “While we mourn this heartbreaking loss, we must also rededicate ourselves to the fight for full equality for all people. No one is equal unless everyone is equal.”