LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — A body armor-clad Boston man arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Japan appeared in federal court Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of transporting weapons, biohazard suits and body bags in his luggage.
Yongda Huang Harris, 28, was charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. His detention hearing was postponed until Friday.
Harris, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, was flagged for secondary inspection last Friday when Customs and Border Protection officers noticed he was wearing a bulletproof vest and flame retardant pants underneath his trench coat, according to a statement from Homeland Security.
According to a Homeland Security Investigations affidavit, suspicious items found in Harris’ luggage included a pyrotechnic smoke grenade, three leather-coated billy clubs, a collapsible baton, a full-face respirator, knives, a hatchet, body bags, a biohazard suit, masks, duct tape, batteries, oven mitts, cooking tongs, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs.
Harris 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, who lives with his family in Boston, graduated from Boston University and has recently been working in Japan teaching English, officials said.
“There’s never been any major activity coming from that house…nice people…I’m honestly kind of surprised about hearing about all this,” neighbor Gadisa Goso said.
Many are wondering how Harris’ luggage got past airport security in Japan and Korea.
An aviation expert told CBS2/KCAL9’s Juan Fernandez that all flights coming into the U.S. from abroad must have every single bag X-rayed before it goes on board.
Harris’ flight stopped in Korea, where security must have only done a limited search on his bag or skipped it altogether.
Fernandez reported that Harris didn’t turn up in any system that monitors for terrorist threats.
Federal investigators are checking his laptop. So far, they’ve found a map of a school in Osaka, Japan, with the entrances and exits clearly marked.