Shootout with Pakistani & Mexican Murder Suspects Closes US-Canadian Peace Arch

25 January 2006: It was the same U.S.-Canadian border crossing that was closed for two hours last week while guards inspected a Canadian-bound car they suspected of containing a bomb. Yesterday, the border crossing was again closed when California authorities engaged in a shoot-out with Ishtiaq HUSSAIN, 38, and Jose Antonio BARAJAS, 22, both wanted for murder by the Richmond, California police department. Both men were taken into custody by police after an exchange of gunfire on the American side of the border, although reports indicate that BARAJAS was wounded. They were reportedly stopped at a checkpoint within a foot of the Canadian border. According to reports, police received a tip that HUSSAIN and BARAJAS were northbound on Interstate 85 and on their way to Canada via the Peace-Arch border crossing at Blaine, Washington Tuesday evening. Both are wanted in connection with the murder of Ashok MALHOTRA, 43, who was shot to death on Saturday, January 14, 2006 at an apartment located at 2380 Aberdeen Way, Richmond, California.

The incident Tuesday began as a car carrying the two men was spotted about six miles south of the border on Interstate 5. When a Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy tried to stop the car, they sped off, and a high-speed chase ensured, at times reaching speeds of 100 mph. They were eventually stopped by a sheriff’s officer who rammed their car with his vehicle. At that point, both men tried to flee on foot; shots were fired and BARAJAS was reportedly wounded. “They [drove] through the border and they almost struck two uniformed officers,” stated Bill Elf, of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department. The suspects continued northbound and struck the Peace Arch itself at one point.

The Peace Arch Border Crossing is one of the busiest on the U.S. northern border. Traffic was diverted to the Pacific Highway crossing about a mile to the east as police investigated.

Canadian Border Guards Leave Their Posts

According to CBC News, the incident caused dozens of unarmed Canadian border guards to walk off the job, fearing for their safety when they learned that the murder suspects were coming their way. The guards left their posts at four crossings along the B.C. border. Only two supervisors were left at each crossing to protect the Canadian side. A spokeswoman with Canada Border Services says the guards have the legal right to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger.