No evidence of mass shooting plan after weapons seized from L.A. high-rise
Los Angeles — Police on Thursday said there isn't any evidence that a mass shooting was planned by a man who stockpiled guns and ammunition in his Hollywood high-rise apartment.
Braxton Johnson was taken into custody Tuesday after he allegedly made violent threats to security staff at the apartment building and people outside, police said.
Police said a search of Johnson's apartment on the 18th floor found two assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, all of which are illegal in California, as well as three semiautomatic pistols, a sniper rifle, a shotgun and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Several rifles were pointed from windows toward a nearby park, the LAPD had said. Police didn't identify the park, but online maps show a dog park next to the apartment complex.
Officers had said the park is below the apartment, CBS Los Angeles reported.
At a news conference Wednesday, police Lt. Leonid Tsap had said there was a "high chance" that officers, along with building security staff and witnesses who grabbed Johnson, had "prevented a mass shooting."
But police backtracked in a statement Thursday.
"At this point of the investigation, there are no indications that any persons were threatened with a firearm nor have we identified any intent by Johnson to plan a mass shooting incident," the statement said. "We are working with our federal partners to exhaust all investigative leads and believe there is no threat to the public."
Police also said they'd talked to Johnson's family "to provide any support services needed."
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 was jailed on $500,000 bail, but a judge on Thursday raised his bail to more than $1 million.
During that court appearance, detectives said they found new "items" in the suspect's apartment but didn't specify what the "items" were, according to CBS L.A..
Details about the threats authorities said he made Tuesday haven't been released.
The apartment's management company referred media inquiries to police.
But CBS L.A. says a number of tenants in the building had reported having uncomfortable run-ins with Johnson, and they all said he made bizarre and threatening comments.
One resident of the building, who did not want to be identified, said the suspect made threatening comments to him earlier in the week, including references to a song about a mass shooting.
"He kept talking about mass shootings, and then at one point he asked me, 'I wonder how many people I can snipe through my floor,' and he lives on the 18th floor, so in my head, I'm like 'Oh my God, is he like planning on shooting us, or planning on shooting people at the park?'" said the man. "And then he kind of like took two steps back and made a comment like, 'If I was the police, I would start my investigation right here.'"
A second resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said they were at a party with the suspect on Friday night and took note of his bizarre behavior, which included gifting a female resident in the building a knife as a present.
"He was having really weird conversations with people and a lot of people started to feel uncomfortable," the resident said. "Then, he came up to me and showed me his gun, and he said, 'Hey, listen I'm a security guard. It's OK.' He was kind of showing off."
Another tenant said he ran into Johnson at the park earlier this week.
He made a little comment about, "'nice to meet your dogs. I hope I don't end up sniping them,' and that really triggered my anxiety," the tenant said.
Management at the apartment building sent an email to residents advising them to stay in their apartments, CBS L.A. added.
Another resident said she called numerous neighbors because the suspect was roaming the halls. She also said she started hearing about the man making threats in early January.
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 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, who was living alone and was unarmed when he was taken into custody but the weapons seized had "the ability to inflict a lot of damage to a lot of people," Tsap said.
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 didn't immediately share other details.