A man dressed in a bulletproof vest and fire-resistant pants was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after a smoke grenade, gas mask, leg irons and weapons were discovered in his luggage, federal authorities said on Tuesday.
Boston-bound Yongda Huang Harris, 28, was arrested on Friday on suspicion of transporting hazardous materials on a flight from Japan, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
Harris was not cooperating with federal officials attempting to interview him, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing 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 is a US citizen whose permanent residence is in Boston and recently started living and working in Japan, officials said.
Harris has been charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Harris made a brief court appearance on Tuesday, and his detention hearing has been postponed until tomorrow.
Harris’ retained attorney, Steven Seiden, was unavailable to comment, said Chris Williams, a spokesman for the lawyer.
Seiden is unclear what Harris had on his body and what he had checked in as 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. Williams declined to elaborate on his background.
Seiden also represents Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the anti-Islam video that sparked violence in the Middle East.
Harris drew suspicion when US Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport noticed he was wearing the bulletproof vest and fire-resistant pants under his trenchcoat. That triggered a formal investigation by US Homeland Security special agents.
In a search of Harris’ checked luggage, numerous suspicious items were uncovered, 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.
A smoke grenade was also found and subsequently X-rayed by the Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad. Officers said the device fell into a category that is prohibited onboard passenger aircraft by the UN.
US Customs officers Kenny Frick and Brandon Parker believed in their initial investigation that the lead-filled, leather-coated billy clubs and a collapsible baton may also be prohibited by California law, according to an affidavit filed in a US district court.