U.S.-Canadian border closed after police chase, shooting, arrests


The Associated Press

BLAINE, Washington- A high-speed chase ended in gunfire and a major U.S.-Canadian border crossing was closed for more than 10 hours after a Pakistani man, one of two sought in a California homicide, was shot and wounded.

Police Lt. Mark Gagan said Ishtiaq Hussain, 38, of Pakistan, and Jose Antonio Barajas, 22, of Mexico, were arrested Tuesday afternoon after failing to stop at the Peace Arch border crossing and that Hussain was wounded. His medical condition was not immediately available early Wednesday.

Both had been sought in the shooting death of Ashok Malhotra, 43, in an apartment near San Francisco on Saturday. Police had thought they might try to flee the country, Gagan said.

No one else was injured, Whatcom County Sheriff William Elfo said.

The chase began Tuesday afternoon after sheriff's deputies, tipped that two men sought in the shooting could be in the area, spotted a car matching the description at a rest stop off Interstate 5 about six miles (9 1/2 kilometers) south of the border, Elfo said.

After a brief confrontation with authorities, the two men fled on I-5, reaching speeds near 100 mph (160 kph). They raced north to the border where they almost struck two Customs and Border Protection officers.

A spike strip laid across the freeway failed to stop the car, which tore through the U.S. Customs station at the Peace Arch crossing and veered across Peace Arch Park, striking the park's monument, and at one point heading north in the southbound lane, Elfo said. The arch sustained minor damage.

At some point, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent fired his gun, striking one of the men, Elfo told The Seattle Times.

The chase ended about a yard (meter) from the border when a deputy blocked the fleeing car with his squad car, Elfo said. One man bolted, but authorities quickly caught him.

Traffic was diverted to the Pacific Highway crossing until Peace Arch was reopened at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Peace Arch is the busiest border crossing west of Detroit.

"I'm very proud of all our people involved," Elfo said. "It's a highly dangerous business trying to capture suspects such as these."

Some Canadian border agents, who are unarmed, left their posts during the incident because they were concerned for their safety, but managers took over and maintained security, said Paula Shore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.

"A few officers exercised their right to refuse to work because of what they perceived as imminent danger," Shore said in a telephone interview. Under the Canada labor code, "any worker has the right to refuse to work if they feel they are in imminent danger."

Managers took over and "as far as the traveling public is concerned, they would notice no difference," she said.

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