Two murder suspects attempt to flee into Canada at the Peace Arch Crossing in Blaine on January 24, 2006.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 3/28/2006
  • Essay 7631
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On January 24, 2006, two murder suspects attempt to flee into Canada at the Peace Arch Crossing in Blaine. The suspects, wanted in a murder case in Richmond, California, flee northbound on Interstate 5 and attempt to cut through the Peace Arch Park and drive into Canada via the southbound lanes of I-5. Whatcom County Sheriffs officers and customs agents stop them just a few feet short of the border. During the confrontation, one suspect is shot.

About 2 p.m., the two men were spotted by a Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy and an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent at an Interstate 5 rest stop just north of Grandview Road in Custer, Washington. This is about seven miles south of the Canadian border. After a brief confrontation with the officers, the men fled north in their vehicle, a small maroon Nissan sedan, at speeds reaching 100 m.p.h.

Authorities laid a spike strip across I-5 between Custer and Blaine in an attempt to stop the car, but this failed. The men quickly reached the border at Blaine, which authorities closed by the time they arrived.

The fleeing car nearly struck two Customs and Border Protection officers. The officers shot at the vehicle, but failed to stop it. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo told a Bellingham Herald reporter that "there was absolutely no indication" of the suspects firing a gun.

The car then rammed two Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicles and careened onto the expansive lawn that makes up Peace Arch Park between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 on both sides of the border. As the car drove across the park, it struck the Peace Arch itself, causing minor damage. The Peace Arch represents the actual borderline between the United States and Canada. The car then drove into the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 and turned north. At this point Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy Stuart Smith deliberately crashed his SUV into the suspect's car, stopping it about three or four feet short of the Canadian side of the border.

One of the suspects, Jose Barajas, 22, bolted from the car but officers quickly stopped him. Police then discovered that the second suspect, Ishtiaq Hussain, 38, had been shot at some point during the confrontation. Hussain's injuries were not serious, and he was released from a Bellingham hospital the following day and booked into Whatcom County Jail with Barajas.

Elfo praised Smith for stopping the suspects just in time. "We would be violating Canadian law if we were to chase them into Canada," he said (Bellingham Herald). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been notified of the chase and were standing by to continue it had the suspects crossed the border.

The border at the Peace Arch Crossing was closed for more than 10 hours while authorities completed their investigation. It reopened shortly after midnight on January 25. Delays crossing into Canada reached two hours at other nearby border crossings as a result.

The incident caused something of a flap on the Canadian side. Unlike their American counterparts, Canadian border patrol officers do not carry firearms. The Vancouver Sun reported that as word of the suspects' approach reached Canadian border patrol officers, up to 50 of the Canadian officers  exercised their right under the federal Labour Code and left their posts at three area border crossings, including the Peace Arch Crossing. Border service managers took their places, with no apparent lapse in personnel at the crossings.

The episode resulted in Canadian politicians calling on their government to arm its border patrol officers.

Sources: Jennifer Sullivan, "Shooting Closes Border at Blaine," The Seattle Times, January 25, 2006, p. B-1, B-2; Greg Joyce, "Border Crossing at Blaine, Wash., Closed After Shooting on U.S. Side," National Post, January 25, 2006, website accessed January 25, 2006 (; Maurice Bridge, "Shootout Closes Border Crossing," Vancouver (BC) Sun, January 25, 2006, p. A-1; Kira Millage, "Men Arrested at Peace Arch To Be Charged Here," The Bellingham Herald, January 26, 2006, website accessed January 26, 2006 (; Amy Carmichael and Maurice Bridge, "Tories Will Arm Guards at Border, High Ranking MP Says," Vancouver (B.C.) Sun, January 26, 2006, p. A-1.

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