A man with ties to Boston who is in federal custody after he was allegedly found to be carrying an assortment of weapons and other suspicious items in his checked baggage is refusing to cooperate with authorities, a federal law enforcement official said Wednesday.
Yongda Huang Harris, 28, who was detained at Los Angeles International Airport en route to Boston last Friday, has not explained why he wore body armor on his flight from Japan to Los Angeles and packed a smoke grenade, a hatchet, a gas mask, a biohazard suit, and body bags in his luggage, the official said.
“He has not been forthcoming,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution.
While Harris’s motives remained unclear, investigators had not found any evidence to suggest Harris had “any nexus to terrorism,” the official said.
Chris Williams — a spokesman for Harris’s lawyer, Steven Seiden — said that Harris was on his way to visit his mother. Williams said most of the items were legal and that Harris had no criminal history.
“There is no history of violence here,’’ said Williams, who added that Harris invoked his Fifth Amendment rights on the advice of his counsel. Williams said he did not know why Harris was carrying the items.
Seiden is also representing Mark Basseley Youssef, the California man linked to an anti-Muslim film that has led to violence in the Middle East. Youssef is in federal custody on charges of violating his probation.
Harris, who was charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, will return to court Friday for a detention hearing. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Blake Chow, assistant commanding officer in the Los Angeles Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau, said by e-mail that Harris did not appear to have a prior criminal record, and it was unclear what he did for a living.
Chow said he did not know where Harris had obtained the suspicious items, which included three billy clubs, handcuffs and leg irons, various masks, duct tape, and a device to repel dogs. Harris had recently been living and working in Japan, authorities said.
“There, unfortunately, is not much known about him,” Chow wrote. “He had ties to Boston that we haven’t been able to verify.”
Harris is a naturalized US citizen. Harris’s family, whose listed address is in Dorchester, could not be reached for comment.
A student named Yongda Harris graduated from Boston University’s Metropolitan College in 2010. The university said Wednesday that federal regulations forbid them from confirming whether Harris was ever a student there.
Customs officers detained Harris at LAX after noticing he was wearing a bulletproof vest and flame retardant pants underneath a trenchcoat, according to a court affidavit. Two officers searched his luggage, then escorted him to a detention cell and patted him down.
The smoke grenade found in his luggage would fill an airplane cabin with smoke, an agent stated in the affidavit, and was capable of starting a fire. The device is prohibited on airplanes.Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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