A U.S. official says a man arrested at Los Angeles International Airport wearing a bulletproof vest and flame-retardant pants is not cooperating with federal investigators attempting to interview him.
The U.S. official said Tuesday that investigators do not believe that the 28-year-old is linked to terrorist organizations, but they have not yet determined a motive.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the case being an open investigation.
— Elliot Spagat/AP
A man dressed in body armor was arrested by federal officials at Los Angeles International Airport after a smoke grenade, gas mask, leg irons and weapons were discovered in his luggage, authorities said Tuesday.
Boston-bound Yongda Huang Harris, 28, was arrested Friday on suspicion of transporting hazardous materials on a flight from Japan, via Korea, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said.
Harris is a U.S. citizen whose permanent residence is in Boston and recently started living and working in Japan, officials said.
Harris made an initial appearance in federal court Tuesday after being charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials. The offense carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison. His detention hearing was continued until Friday.
Federal authorities provided no details about why Harris might have been carrying the items, only what was contained in a news release and related case affidavit from an ICE agent. An investigation is ongoing.
Harris drew suspicion when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport said they noticed he was wearing a bulletproof vest, flame retardant pants and knee pads under his trench coat.
The observation triggered a formal investigation by Homeland Security special agents. Customs Officer Kenny Frick offered Harris the chance to amend his customs declaration. He said that he had a knife, but didn’t make any other changes before the search.
In a search of checked luggage, numerous suspicious items were uncovered, including knives, body bags, hatchet, collapsible baton, biohazard suit, full-face respirator, and lead-filled, leather-coated billy clubs, authorities said. According to an affidavit from an ICE agent, Harris’s luggage also contained duct tape, various masks, batteries, oven mitts, cooking tongs, hand cuffs, leg irons, plastic flexi-cuffs and a device to repel dogs.
The smoke grenade was subsequently X-rayed by the Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad. Officers said the device fell into a category that is prohibited on board passenger aircraft by the United Nations.
“Depending on the conditions when it is ignited, the smoke grenade, made by Commando Manufacturers, could potentially fill the cabin of a commercial airplane with smoke or cause a fire,” federal officials said in a release.
Attempts to reach Harris’ family in Boston and his associates were unsuccessful.
This story has been updated.