A Boston-bound man wearing body armor, flame retardant leggings and knee pads under his trench coat arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after a Customs and Border Protection officer found a smoke grenade and several weapons in his checked luggage is facing a federal charge for transporting hazardous material on an airplane.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Yongda Huang Harris, 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, was flying from Kansai, Japan, via Inchon, Korea, to LAX on Friday.
He was pulled aside in customs for a secondary baggage inspection when an officer noticed Harris was wearing a bullet-proof vest. The officer asked Harris if he had anything he would like to declare in his checked luggage.
Harris told the officer he had a knife, but when his bag was searched, the officer found a troubling array of suspicious items. In addition to the smoke grenade, officers found three leather-coated black-jack billy clubs, a collapsible baton, a full-face respirator, several knives and a hatchet.
Perhaps even more disturbing, officers also found body bags, a tyvex biohazard suit, various masks, duct tape, hand cuffs, leg irons, flex cuffs, oven mitts and cooking tongs.
The smoke grenade, manufactured by a company called Commando, is classified as an explosive and is capable of filling a 40,000-cubic-foot space with smoke, according to the affidavit. The grenade is also capable of causing a fire. It is not clear why Harris had those items in his luggage, but the investigation is ongoing.
Authorities say they are working with investigators in Japan, where Harris has been living, to learn more about why he would bring such an alarming assortment of implements on board an international flight. LAPD and FBI are assisting in the investigation.
Harris, according to a Department of Homeland Security statement, makes his permanent home in Boston. Though he was arrested Friday, due to the federal holiday Harris made his initial appearance Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court and remains in federal custody.
Harris is being represented by criminal defense attorney Steven A. Seiden, who is also representing the controversial anti-Islam film maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Reached for comment, Seiden’s office described Harris as a highly intelligent and diligent student who attended excellent schools in Boston and has no criminal history or violent tendencies. Seiden hopes to issue a statement Tuesday. He is scheduled to be back in court Friday for a detention hearing.