An armed Arizona man allegedly ambushed 11 National Guard troops transporting COVID-19 vaccines in Texas and held them at gunpoint Monday after an extensive chase on a highway, authorities said.
That morning, police say a gunman followed three vans of troops transporting vaccines from a Love's Travel Station for 10 miles. The suspect, 66-year-old Larry Harris, allegedly made multiple attempts to run the Guard members off the road, according to a statement from Idalou Police Chief Eric Williams.
Williams said Harris turned his vehicle into oncoming traffic and stopped the National Guard vans. The troops were unarmed, Williams told Military.com in a phone call. He added that Homeland Security investigators are expected to bring federal charges. It is typical for Guardsmen to be unarmed on domestic missions such as coronavirus relief.
Harris allegedly pointed a Colt 1911 .45 caliber pistol at the troops, falsely identified himself as a detective and accused the soldiers of kidnapping a woman and child.
No service members or police were injured. Idalou officers took Harris into custody without incident. Police said in a statement that Harris had additional magazines on his person and in his vehicle.
"Mr. Harris appeared to be mentally disturbed. This was a very dangerous situation since the suspect was standing in the midst of the unarmed Guardsman with a loaded weapon, then the Idalou officers arrived on scene," Williams said. "We are grateful that the officers were able to take him into custody without any of the Guardsmen, the officers or the suspect getting hurt."
Harris was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint of the 11 soldiers, unlawful carrying of a weapon, impersonating a public servant and interference with Texas military forces. He remains in custody at Lubbock County Detention Center. It is unclear if he is receiving any mental health evaluations or treatment; officials with the jail have not yet responded to a request for comment. According to jail records, Harris has not yet hired a lawyer.
There are 31,000 troops deployed across the country for coronavirus relief, according to the National Guard Bureau. These missions include food distribution and facilitating coronavirus testing. Troops also serve as a critical tool to administer vaccines in support of President Joe Biden’s goal to return the country to relative normalcy by Independence Day.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.