By Dan Whitcomb


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Indiana man who was arrested on his way to a Los Angeles-area gay pride parade after police said they found guns and bomb-making chemicals in his car was charged on Tuesday with unlawful possession of an assault weapon and explosives.


James Wesley Howell was taken into custody early on Sunday morning in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica and police officials say he told arresting officers that he planned to attend the pride event in nearby West Hollywood.


Authorities have since said there was no apparent link to the deadly mass shooting hours earlier at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people.


Howell pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $2 million bail by a judge during a brief court hearing. His attorney could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.


Howell was taken into custody shortly after 5 a.m. on Sunday after officers responding to reports of a man knocking on a window found him sitting in his white Acura with three assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, according to the Santa Monica Police Department.

Also found in the car was a five-gallon (19-liter) bucket with chemicals that could be used to make an improvised explosive device.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks initially said on Twitter that Howell told officers he wanted to "harm" the gay pride festival. But Seabrooks later called that information inaccurate and that Howell had only told officers he planned to attend the event.

"The suspect did make an initial statement to the effect that he was going to go to the pride festival," the department's Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez told reporters on Sunday.

"Beyond that he did not make any additional statement saying that he was going to do anything further than that. We do not have any additional information related to what his intentions were," Rodriguez said.

Prosecutors did not say in the charging documents what they believed Howell planned to do with the weapons. But they filed a statement by a Santa Monica police detective that a black hood, taser, handcuffs, a knife and security badge were also found in his car.

Detective Derek Leone said that before his arrest Howell had driven to California from Indiana, where he was convicted in March of a misdemeanor charge of intimidation using a deadly weapon.

Leone said Howell was on probation in that case and was subject to a restraining order which prohibited him from possessing firearms.

A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman said agents had raided Howell's residence in Clark County, Indiana, on Monday evening as part of the probe. The FBI did not say what it found in that search and Howell has not been charged with any federal crimes.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Sandra Maler and Richard Chang)