Police: ‘High chance’ of Hollywood mass shooting prevented
By STEFANIE DAZIO
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A “high chance” of a mass shooting in Hollywood has been thwarted by police seizing a cache of guns and ammunition in a high-rise apartment where several rifles were pointed toward a nearby park, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Braxton Johnson was taken into custody Tuesday after he allegedly made violent threats involving weapons to security staff at the apartment building and people outside, the agency said Wednesday.
Police searched Johnson’s apartment and found two assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, all of which are illegal in California, as well as three handguns, a sniper rifle, a shotgun and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Johnson, 25, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of possession of an assault weapon, one count of criminal threats and one count of solicitation of murder. He remained jailed on $500,000 bail.
Investigators have not said whether they uncovered any additional evidence of a plot to target the park, or Johnson’s motive in pointing the rifles toward the area. Details about the threats authorities said he made Tuesday have not been released.
“From what we’re seeing right now, there’s a high chance that the officers — and obviously security staff and the people who called — prevented a mass shooting from happening,” LAPD Lt. Leonid Tsap said Wednesday during a news conference.
Authorities have not identified the park, but online maps show a dog park next to the apartment complex where Johnson lived. The apartment’s management company referred media inquiries to police.
The cache of guns and their setup in the high-rise apartment were reminiscent of a 2017 massacre in Las Vegas, where the gunman fired 1,057 bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He killed 58 people below the hotel who were enjoying an outdoor country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Authorities later attributed the deaths of two more people, both of whom had been badly wounded, to the concert shooting.
Officers answered a report of a possible mental health situation Tuesday morning and went to the building on Gordon Street at Sunset Boulevard, an LAPD statement said.
Johnson was living alone in an apartment building on the 18th floor with large windows that offer an “unobstructed view of a park and a public area downstairs, and some of the rifles were pointed outside the windows,” Tsap said.
While Johnson was unarmed when he was taken into custody, Tsap said the weapons seized had “the ability to inflict a lot of damage to a lot of people.”
Johnson had recently moved into the apartment. He already was under investigation in a state on the East Coast for a violent crime, police said. They did not immediately share other details.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Braxton Johnson is 25 years old, not 24. The Los Angeles Police Department said he was 24 but jail records show he is 25.
Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.