Feds: Man arrested LA airport not cooperating

Thursday, October 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- A U.S. official says Korean officials screened a man with a bulletproof vest before he got on a flight to Los Angeles, but they never detected items concealed in his checked luggage.

A Homeland Security official said Wednesday that Korean authorities thoroughly searched Yongda Huang Harris and his carry-on luggage. They found nothing suspicious and he boarded the flight.

Harris was taken into custody in Los Angeles after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed the vest and a search of his checked luggage uncovered the smoke grenade, knives, body bags, a hatchet, a collapsible baton, a biohazard suit, a gas mask, billy clubs, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs.

Harris has not cooperated with authorities attempting to interview him, according to a U.S. official.

The official said Harris is not believed to be linked to a terrorist organization. His motive, however, has not yet been determined.

Harris has been charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. His arraignment was delayed until Friday and he was ordered held until then.

Harris is a United States resident whose permanent residence is Boston, although he recently started living and working in Japan, officials said. Attempts to reach Harris' family and associates were unsuccessful.

His attorney, Steven Seiden, was unavailable to comment, said Chris Williams, a spokesman for Seiden, who also represents Mark Basseley Youssef, the man behind the anti-Islam video that recently sparked violence in the Middle East.

It's unclear what Harris had on his body and what he had checked in baggage, which will be crucial information to the defense, said Williams, who declined to comment on why Harris was carrying any of the weapons.

Aside from the smoke grenade, most items found in Harris' luggage -- including the hatchet and knives -- would not violate Transportation Security Administration guidelines for what is permissible in checked luggage. Also, bulletproof vests and flame-resistant pants are not listed prohibited aboard flights.

Harris traveled from Kansai, in western Japan, to Incheon, Korea, before landing in Los Angeles.

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