A federal judge on Thursday ordered mental health treatment for a 66-year-old Arizona man described by police officials as “mentally disturbed” when he was arrested in March after allegedly holding at gunpoint a National Guard convoy carrying a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.
U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix ordered Larry Lee Harris of Willcox, Arizona, to be committed to the custody of the Attorney General who would hospitalize the defendant for treatment in a suitable facility for a period of time, not to exceed four months.
“Based upon the evidence offered in the hearing, the Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense,” Hendrix wrote in his order.
The order comes after a brief hearing on Thursday regarding a forensic psychologist’s evaluation of Harris’ mental health.
Harris, who has been in U.S. Marshal’s custody since his arrest, faces 11 counts of assaulting a federal officer using a deadly or dangerous weapon stemming from an investigation on March 22 when Idalou police responded to U.S. 62/82 about two miles east of Idalou where National Guardsmen reported a man threatening them with a firearm.
Eleven guardsmen were delivering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Matador at the time.
Guardsmen at the scene told police they noticed Harris, who drove a white Chevrolet pickup truck, follow their convoy as they left the Love’s Travel Stop in the 4200 block of North Interstate 27.
They said Harris caught up to the convoy and drove alongside the last van and reportedly pointed a gun at the driver. The convoy stopped on the side of U.S. 62/82 about two miles east of Idalou, according to court documents.
Harris reportedly approached the convoy with a gun drawn and identified himself as a detective. He reportedly told the guardsmen he was looking for a 41-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl and demanded to search the vehicles, the documents state.
The guardsmen told investigators Harris searched the vehicles and drove away.
However, as the convoy prepared to leave, Harris reportedly turned around, stopped the convoy again and demanded to search the engine compartment of one of the vans.
The guardsmen called 911 and Idalou police officers were dispatched to the scene.
No injuries were reported, said Idalou police chief Eric C. Williams.
“Mr. Harris appeared to be mentally disturbed,” Williams said in a statement. “This was a very dangerous situation since the suspect was standing in the midst of the unarmed guardsmen with a loaded weapon then the Idalou Officers arrived on scene. 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, who was armed with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, was arrested without incident.
Police also found an additional loaded magazine on his person and another loaded magazine in his truck.
Harris has only appeared in court for an initial appearance. An arraignment in April was reset after his defense attorney, Sarah Gunter with the federal public defender’s office, filed a motion citing concern for his competency to stand trial when she noticed his behavior during his initial appearance.
“Attorney for Defendant does not believe that Mr. Harris is competent to sign a waiver of arraignment, Attorney for Defendant requests that the court enter a plea of Not Guilty on Mr. Harris’ behalf,” the motion reads.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix ordered a mental health evaluation of Harris, which resulted in an eight-page report filed in July.
On Aug. 18, prosecutors and Harris’ attorney filed a stipulation agreeing to have Harris committed to restore his competency.