Published October 09, 2012
LOS ANGELES – A man dressed in a bulletproof vest and flame-retardant pants 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, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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' initial court appearance, scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed to Friday. He has been charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Federal authorities provided no details about why Harris might have been carrying the items. An investigation is ongoing.
Harris drew suspicion when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport noticed he was wearing the bulletproof vest and flame-retardant pants under his trenchcoat. That triggered a formal investigation by 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, a respirator, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs, authorities said.
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 news release.
Many of the other items in Harris' luggage -- including the hatchet and knives -- wouldn't violate posted Transportation Security Administration guidelines for what is permissible in checked luggage.
However, 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 be prohibited by California law, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
Attempts to reach Harris' family in Boston and his associates were unsuccessful.