Armed man going to California Pride hours after Pulse nightclub shooting sentenced to seven years

An armed 22-year-old man who was arrested on his way to a gay pride event with rifles and explosives in his car has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

James Welsey Howell pleaded no contest on Thursday to weapons and explosives charges, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said, quoted in the Associated Press (AP).

The man, from Charlestown, Indiana, was pulled over by police in July 2016 on his way to a Pride event in West Hollywood, just hours after the deadly mass shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Police found three firearms inside Howell’s car, including a AR-15 rifle and magazines modified to allow shots to be fired in quick succession, as well as fifteen pounds of chemicals that could be used as an explosive, CNN reported at the time of his arrest.

Image: Santa Monica Police department

Prior to his sentencing, he was held in a California jail with bail set at $2 million, and charged with unlawful possession of an assault weapon, possession of a destructive device on a public street, manufacturing or importing large magazines and carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.

He had initially pled not guilty to the charges before pleading no contest at his sentencing.

According to CBS News, Howell was also charged in 2016 with child molestation in Indiana’s Clark County.

(Flickr/Brian Turner)

Howell was sentenced to seven years in prison for the Pride incident. (Flickr/Brian Turner)

State prosecutors told AP that he had allegedly taken a 12-year-old child to a state forestry property and had sex with her.

Court documents in the case said that Howell was friends with the 12-year-old’s brother, with whom he attended regular car events.

Friends of Howell described him as a “gun enthusiast” with a “short-temper.”

Prosecutors in the molestation case believed that he had gone to California after learning he was under investigation for the May 2016 incident.

The outcome of the Indiana molestation case is not known.