EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

October 10, 2012

Feds: Man at LA airport had weapons, smoke grenade

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The defense attorney's spokesman described Harris as "very intelligent," earning A's in high school and college calculus.

Harris drew suspicion when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport noticed he was wearing the protective vest and pants under his trench coat, triggering a formal investigation by Homeland Security special agents.

A search of Harris' checked luggage uncovered numerous suspicious items, including knives, body bags, a hatchet, a collapsible baton, a biohazard suit, a full-face respirator, billy clubs, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs, authorities said.

The smoke grenade was X-rayed by police bomb squad officers, who said the device fell into a category that is prohibited on board passenger aircraft.

Such a grenade "could potentially fill the cabin of a commercial airplane with smoke or cause a fire," federal officials said in a news release.

Many of the other items in Harris' luggage — including the hatchet and knives — wouldn't violate Transportation Security Administration guidelines for what is permissible in luggage that is checked.

However, customs officers Kenny Frick and Brandon Parker believed in their initial investigation that the lead-filled, leather-coated billy clubs and a collapsible baton may be prohibited by California law, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.

A customs official said Tuesday night that Harris was not enrolled in any of the U.S. government's trusted traveler programs, which could have allowed faster processing through security or customs. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the ongoing investigation.

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

An immigration officer at Kansai International Airport, Masahiro Nakamoto, said authorities reported nothing suspicious at the time the man was believed to have boarded. Spokesman Keisuke Hamatani said Kansai security officials had not reported spotting any suitcases containing the hazardous materials allegedly found in Harris' luggage.

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