Police link school gun arrest with separate case
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- School district police are linking a former high school student arrested for having a rifle on campus with another firearms case.
Police said Jake Howell brought a rifle and several knives to Northwest Technical and Career Academy last Friday. In the arrest report, officers said Howell also claimed to have created a militia with friend Steven Fernandes.
Back in September, a federal grand jury indicted Fernandes on charges of possession of unregistered firearms, making firearms and transporting explosive materials after FBI agents found a loaded shotgun in his car and materials in his bedroom that could be used to make an explosive, according to court records from the case.
School district police were investigating a possible plot against the school by associates of Fernandes, according to the arrest report. The school principal identified Howell as an associate, the report said.
"At this point, I don't know if there's a connection," said Fernandes defense attorney Crystal Eller when asked about the relationship between the two men. "I haven't had a chance to speak with my client about that. I know there's report of a connection but I personally don't know."
The Fernandes case is currently awaiting trial in federal court. In court documents, federal prosecutors said they obtained an email in which Fernandes claimed to be the commanding officer of the 327th Nevada Militia, a.k.a. 327th Recon Unit. Prosecutors said members "supposedly conduct explosive disposal training in order to be ready to 'go to war with the government,'" according to court records.
The defense attorney for Fernandes disputed the militia description from prosecutors.
"It's a harmless group of boys out in the desert playing army," said Eller. "Basically camping, hiking, hanging out."
In Howell's arrest report, police said Howell "loaded his vehicle with various survival gear items to be prepared for the 'Society collapse' that was rumored to occur on December 21, 2012."
Howell denied knowledge of any plot against the school and denied intentions to hurt anyone, the report said.
Howell is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on January 8th, according to the district attorney's office.