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National Guard troops ambushed at gunpoint while transporting coronavirus vaccine, police say

An image from Idalou, Tex., Police Chief Eric C. Williams’s dashboard camera on Monday after a suspect was arrested and accused of running a National Guard convoy off the road. (Eric C. Williams)

It was before 9 a.m. Monday on the edge of Lubbock, Tex., when a man, armed with a loaded pistol, allegedly barreled down the highway in hot pursuit of Texas National Guard members, furious about the imagined cargo.

The soldiers were transporting coronavirus vaccine to a town 80 miles away, authorities said. But Larry Harris, a 66-year-old Arizona man, later told police he thought the three unmarked white vans were involved in the kidnapping of a woman and child.

Harris tried to run the vans off the road, then swerved into oncoming traffic to stop them before ordering 11 soldiers out at gunpoint, culminating in a bizarre moment that left them shaken on the side of a small-town highway road, said Idalou Police Chief Eric C. Williams.

“Some were so young, I thought they may have been part of an ROTC detachment,” Williams told The Washington Post.

Harris was arrested soon after police arrived and charged with several offenses, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and an obscure law that makes it a crime to interfere with Texas military forces, Williams said. The soldiers were not harmed in the incident.

It appeared Harris pursued the soldiers almost as soon as they left an armory in Lubbock. They stopped at a gas station across the highway for drinks, Williams said, and Harris followed the convoy from there.

After he stopped the vans, Harris pointed a .45-caliber pistol at one of the soldiers, said he was a detective and ordered the soldiers out of the vehicles, Williams said. One of the soldiers called 911, and Idalou officers arrived a few minutes later and arrested Harris without incident.

Harris had another pistol magazine in a pocket and a third magazine in his truck, along with more ammunition. None of the soldiers was armed, Williams said, which is typical for domestic responses, such as coronavirus-related missions.

Authorities said they believe Harris was in the area before the incident but are not sure exactly where.

It is also not clear whether Harris, who remains in jail, has an attorney. The Department of Homeland Security requested to hold him and will probably bring federal charges, Williams said.

The Texas National Guard said the incident remains under investigation. Williams said he believed the soldiers successfully delivered the vaccine supply to the town of Matador.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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