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Texas Man Allegedly Held National Guard Soldiers Transporting COVID-19 Vaccines At Gunpoint
Larry Lee Harris “pointed a gun at a National Guard soldier, identified himself as a detective, and demanded to search the vehicles,” the Idalou Police Department said this week.
A Texas man held nearly a dozen soldiers hostage as they were transporting COVID-19 vaccines after stopping their vehicles at gunpoint on a rural road, police said this week.
On Monday morning, Larry Lee Harris, 66, allegedly impersonated a detective and pointed a gun at a U.S. National Guardsmen vehicle on a road about two miles east of Idalou, Texas, a small farming town roughly 100 miles from the New Mexico border, authorities said.
On March 22, shortly before 8 a.m, county dispatchers received reports that an armed man, later identified as Harris, had pulled over three vans on Highway 62/82 and attempted searching them at gunpoint. The vehicles were later identified as a U.S. National Guard convoy transporting COVID-19 vaccines.
Harris tried to run the vans off the road “multiple times,” according to police. He eventually commandeered the vans by steering into oncoming traffic, officials said. The Texas man then allegedly posed as a detective and demanded to search the vehicles, claiming the soldiers had abducted a woman and child.
“Mr. Harris pointed a gun at a National Guard soldier, identified himself as a detective, and demanded to search the vehicles and ordered the guardsmen out of their vehicles at gunpoint,” Idalou Police Department said in a statement. “Mr. Harris informed police that he thought the people in the vans had kidnapped a woman and child."
Police Chief Eric Williams cast doubt on that possible motive in a message sent on Thursday to Oxygen.com.
“He was saying he was looking for a woman and child that had been kidnapped," Williams said. "However, there were no reports of a kidnapped woman or child, at least in this region... The investigation is still ongoing and may uncover more facts regarding his motivations.”
Harris was taken into custody without incident, and no one was injured in the process. Authorities declined to disclose whether Harris specifically targeted the National Guard convoy for the COVID-19 vaccines, or if he had prior knowledge of their cargo. Police were unable to confirm the exact number of doses the vans were carrying.
Harris appeared to be “mentally disturbed,” police said.
“I was very grateful that none of the guardsmen, my officers, or the suspect were hurt or killed,” Williams told Oxygen.com in a statement. “What could have been a very catastrophic situation was mitigated by the rapid response of the officers to the information relayed to us by the guardsmen. A team effort brought this to a successful and peaceful conclusion.”
Harris was found in possession of a Colt .45 caliber pistol. Authorities also seized three fully-loaded magazines.
“One was in the truck, one was in his pocket and the other was loaded into the gun itself,” Williams added. “He had an extra box of ammo in the truck, too.”
The police chief declined to comment further on the case.
Harris was charged with aggravated assault, impersonating a public servant, unlawful restraint, unlawfully carrying a weapon and interference with Texas military forces. Harris is being held without bond at a Lubbock County detention center, according to online jail records accessed by Oxygen.com. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal representation.
The Department of U.S. Homeland Security is now assisting on the investigation. The agency didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the U.S. National Guard also didn’t reply to inquiries regarding the incident this week.
Some experts said the incident raises some questions over the current vaccine supply chain security and its “vulnerabilities.”
“This does raise concerns about how easy it might be to disrupt supply chains,” Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York, told Oxygen.com.
“The continuing issue with the supply chain is how are all these vaccines being tracked and how vulnerable are different points of the supply chain for someone who actually wants to steal the vaccines, he added. "With vaccines in such limited supply there are concerns that people are wanting to steal the vaccines or with conspiracy theories floating around, there’s the concern people want to interrupt vaccine distribution.”