Feds: Man at LA airport had weapons, smoke grenade

Associated Press Published: October 10, 2012
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Why would a man flying from Japan to Boston need to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a suitcase full of weapons, leg irons, a smoke grenade, a gas mask and a biohazard suit?

That's what federal investigators are trying to figure out despite a lack of cooperation from 28-year-old Yongda Huang Harris, who was arrested during a stopover at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Harris, who was taken into custody at the airport Friday wearing the vest and flame-resistant pants, was not cooperating with federal officials attempting to interview him, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation.

The official said Harris is not believed to be linked to a terrorist organization, but his motive has not been determined.

Harris has been charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He made a brief court appearance Tuesday, but his arraignment was delayed until Friday and he was ordered held until then.

Harris is a U.S. citizen whose permanent residence is in Boston, though he recently started living and working in Japan, officials said. Attempts to reach Harris' family in Boston and his associates were unsuccessful.

His attorney, Steven Seiden, was unavailable to comment, said Chris Williams, a spokesman for Seiden, who also represents Mark Basseley Youssef, the man behind the anti-Islam video that recently sparked violence in the Middle East.

It's unclear what Harris had on his body and what he had checked in baggage, which will be crucial information to the defense, said Williams, who declined to comment on why Harris was carrying any of the weapons.

"It raises a lot of questions, and those questions will need to be answered. Right now, the case is very early," Williams said.

The defense attorney's spokesman described Harris as "very intelligent," earning A's in high school and college calculus.

Harris drew suspicion when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport noticed he was wearing the protective vest and pants under his trench coat, triggering a formal investigation by Homeland Security special agents.

A search of Harris' checked luggage uncovered numerous suspicious items, including knives, body bags, a hatchet, a collapsible baton, a biohazard suit, a full-face respirator, billy clubs, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs, authorities said.



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