Man Who Tried to Get Through LAX with Body Armor, Smoke Grenade Charged

By Jason Kandel
|  Friday, Nov 9, 2012  |  Updated 1:59 PM PDT
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Man Charged With Carrying Smoke Grenade Through LAX

A courtroom sketch show 28-year-old Yongda Huang Harris, in a mask, during a hearing on Oct. 12, 2012. Harris was charged with illegally transporting a smoke grenade through LAX. He was wearing a mask due to throat infection, said his attorney, Steven Seiden, seated to the right.

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Man Charged With Carrying Smoke Grenade Through LAX

Yongda Huang Harris – clad in a bullet-proof vest, knee pads and flame-retardant pants underneath a trench coat – was arrested last week at LAX when agents discovered a smoke grenade in his checked luggage among a hatchet, body bags and lead-filled billy clubs. The 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese descent was charged on Tuesday with one count of transporting hazardous material. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2012
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A man accused of wearing body armor and carrying luggage with an arsenal that included a smoke grenade through LAX was ordered on Friday to remain jailed pending trial.

Documents: Read the Affidavit

Yongda Huang Harris, 28, of Boston, faces a federal charge of transporting hazardous materials.

Federal officials said in court they also believe he may be prone to committing sexual violence against children, based on evidence they say was found on his computer.

Harris' attorney, Steven Seiden, said the latter allegation was highly inflammatory and prejudicial.

"The material was not the subject of the charge nor was it illegal," Seiden told reporters outside the federal courthouse downtown. "He's a nice, young man. He's shy. He's gentle. He's never threatened anyone."

He said Harris is a school teacher in Asia and has never been fired from his job. He said he has  family in Boston who misses him and that he has had to miss the funeral of his stepfather.

When asked about a mask Harris was wearing in court, Seiden said his client has an infection in his throat.

Harris was arrested Oct. 5 at Los Angeles International Airport where he was found "recklessly transporting" a smoke grenade in his checked luggage after arriving on a flight from Kansai, Japan via Inchon, Korea, according to court documents.

He was wearing body armor, including a bulletproof vest, flame-retardant legging covers, and knee pads, under a trench coat, officials said.

A search of Harris' luggage turned up a smoke grenade, lead-filled, leather-coated billy clubs, a collapsible baton, a face respirator, various knives, a hatchet, body bags, a biohazard suit, various masks, duct tape, batteries, oven mitts, cooking tongs, handcuffs, leg irons, plastic flexi-cuffs, and a device to repel dogs, according to court documents.

If detonated, the smoke grenade could have filled the cabin of the plane with smoke and ignited a fire, authorities said. The grenade fell under the United Nations' explosives shipping classification, meaning it is prohibited on passenger aircraft, court documents said.

It was unclear if he was similarly clad when he boarded the flight. Seiden wouldn't comment on a motive, saying it is irrelevant to the charge. Seiden admitted that his client, an Asian man of slight build, has been bullied by "street thugs" in Boston.

Harris, who has been living and working recently in Japan, is charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of transporting hazardous materials, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

He's expected back in court Oct. 23 for a preliminary hearing.

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