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Man with rifles pointed out the windows of his high-rise apartment faces charges, D.A. says

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

A man with a cache of weapons and a sniper-like setup in his apartment in a Hollywood high-rise is now facing charges, Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Thursday.

Braxton Kyle Johnson has been charged with one count of making criminal threats, two counts of possession of illegal assault weapons and one count of solicitation of murder, the district attorney said.

Some residents of the 22-story luxury apartment complex became concerned about their new neighbor and alerted police, leading to his arrest. Johnson had been bragging about an arsenal of weapons and saying the CIA was watching him, police said.

Rifles belonging to Johnson were loaded with ammunition and pointed out the windows of his newly rented 18th-floor Hollywood apartment, which had panoramic views of a busy street and a public park. One rifle with a scope was mounted on a small tripod, similar to the ones used by hunters — or military snipers.

Residents called police to say that Johnson had been making bizarre threats against them and security staff at the Lumina Hollywood, the apartment complex in the 1500 block of Gordon Street near Sunset Boulevard.

In one of those conversations, the district attorney said the 25-year-old Johnson asked a woman if she had anyone who needed killing.

“Los Angeles County is still reeling over the tragic mass shooting in Monterey Park,” Gascón said. “Were it not for the brave actions of the witnesses in this case, this could have also been an incredible tragedy. I want to also thank the LAPD for quickly apprehending this person and potentially saving countless lives.”

One neighbor who spoke Thursday with The Times on the condition of anonymity, given the nature of the allegations, said she had encountered Johnson at a nearby dog park Monday. She said he spoke to her in a strange accent, saying he was “conducting an investigation” and asking where the various floors of the 22-story high-rise were, including the 18th floor.

“He was in a pea coat with slicked-back hair,” she said, adding that he approached another dog owner after he spoke to her and used a different accent.

She said she wondered whether he was an actor. But the following day, she came home to find police officers dressed in tactical gear scouring the Lumina building. She was told they were waiting for a suspect to return home.

Los Angeles police are saying reports from the building’s tenants may have “prevented a mass shooting from happening.”

“The suspect was located on the 18th floor of an apartment building with large windows with a view, with a non-obstructed view of a public park, downstairs, and some of the rifles were pointed outside of the windows,” LAPD Lt. Leon Tsap said.

Tsap said Johnson was in possession of weaponry “with the ability to inflict a lot of damage to a lot of people.”

Johnson, 25, was arrested late Tuesday on suspicion of making criminal threats against neighbors and staff at the Lumina Hollywood.

One resident told officers that the man had made comments about owning numerous weapons and noting that his 18th-floor apartment provided a prime perch for “sniping,” according to the LAPD.

Based on that information, detectives from the Hollywood Division got an arrest warrant for Johnson and a search warrant for his apartment. There, they found seven guns — one shotgun, two assault rifles, one long rifle and three handguns — as well as two bulletproof vests and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

A photo shared by the LAPD showed a table spread with weapons and ammunition, including several long guns, handguns with magazines, and camouflage-patterned body armor. According to Tsap, some of the weapons — including the rifles — were loaded and had extended magazines, typically unlawful in California.

Investigators have so far not recovered any evidence of a planned attack.

Johnson is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to police records. Prosecutors said he had a prior illegal weapons possession arrest in New Jersey.

According to an Indiana voter registration from 2016, Johnson was serving in the U.S. military at that time. The document does not specify which branch.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is reviewing the case to determine what charges can be filed.


© 2023 Los Angeles Times

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