The Associated Press reports:
An Indiana man who told police he was headed to a gay pride event in California and was found with a loaded assault rifle and chemicals mixed and ready to explode in his car has pleaded not guilty to weapons charges. James Wesley Howell, of Charlestown, Indiana, was also charged Tuesday with possessing a destructive device. His attorney declined to comment.
Authorities say Howell was stopped in Santa Monica in July with a loaded AR-15 rifle and magazines rigged to allow shots to be fired in quick succession. They say he also had 15 pounds of chemicals mixed and ready to explode. Howell said he was going to a gay pride event in West Hollywood. Howell was arrested the same day 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Florida.
CBS News reports:
Friends in Indiana have described Howell as a gun enthusiast with a short temper. In October, he was twice accused of pulling a gun and making threats, once against a boyfriend and once against a neighbor. Howell is also facing a child molestation charge filed in June last year in Indiana — allegations that apparently spurred his cross-country journey to California, according to a prosecutor.
If convicted on the molestation charge, the Indiana man could face up to 16 years in prison. Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull told The Associated Press in June that Howell took a 12-year-old girl to a state forestry property May 31 and had sex with her.
Mull said Howell was interviewed on June 7 by a police detective in the molestation case and apparently left Indiana at some point after speaking to the officer. He said it’s a “logical conclusion to draw” that Howell traveled to California to flee the child molestation investigation. But he said he didn’t know what Howell’s intentions were in California.