SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After this weekend’s massacre in Florida and a close call in Southern California, security is the number one priority as San Francisco plans its annual LGBT Pride weekend celebrations.
Only a few hours after a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State carried out the deadliest mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Santa Monica police arrested an Indiana man armed to the teeth, who said he was heading to the Gay Pride parade in Los Angeles. Authorities say neither incident was related.
James Wesley Howell was arrested with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and chemicals used to make explosives in his possession. The 20-year-old had the weapons in his car.
Amid heightened security concerns, San Francisco lawmaker Scott Weiner said Monday he plans to meet with LGBT venue owners in the Castro and SOMA districts along with the city’s police department to discuss Pride celebration security.
“No act of violence — even one as evil as what Orlando experienced on Sunday — will stop us from coming together to celebrate the LGBT community at Pride this year. More than ever, we need to show the strength and love of our community to the world,” said Wiener in a statement.
The gay pride parade and celebrations in Los Angeles went on as scheduled with hundreds of thousands in attendance, despite Howell’s arrest. Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters, “We are here as Angelenos, as the LGBT community and allies,” he said. “And we will not shrink away, we will not be stuck in our homes, we will not go back into our closets. We’re here to march, to celebrate and to mourn.”
Before dying in a shootout with SWAT teams, the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. Born in New York to Afghan parents, he had a history of mental illness and aggressive behavior. Howell had a history of fights in school and run-ins with the law. In 2015, he was arrested for threatening his neighbors with a gun and was on probation.
Meantime, authorities are still searching for a friend Howell said he planned to meet at the parade. He is being held on $500,000 bond at the Santa Monica Jail.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.