Man caught at U.S.-Canada border held on $2 million bail

A Mexican man sought in a California homicide was ordered held on $2 million bail Wednesday, while a Pakistani man was released the hospital and booked into jail following a car chase that ended in gunfire and forced the closing of a major U.S.-Canada border crossing for more than 10 hours. Authorities arrested Jose Antonio Barajas, 22, of Mexico, and Ishtiaq Hussain, 38, of Pakistan, on Tuesday after they allegedly sped away from a Whatcom County sheriff's deputy at 100 mph (160 kph), drove through a spike strip designed to flatten their tires, failed to stop at a border checkpoint and tore through Peace Arch Park.

About 20 Canadian border guards, who are unarmed, fled for safety on Tuesday, an official of the union representing the guards said Wednesday.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent fired his gun, hitting Hussain, and a sheriff's deputy blocked the fleeing vehicle with his squad car. The Peace Arch border crossing was closed for more than 10 hours Tuesday, although traffic was diverted to another nearby crossing. Barajas and Hussain had been sought in the Saturday shooting death of Ashok Malhotra, 43, in a San Francisco-area apartment, and police believed they might try to flee the country. The chase began Tuesday afternoon after sheriff's deputies spotted a car matching the description on Interstate 5 in Custer, about 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) south of the border.

A Whatcom County Superior Court judge set Barajas' bail at $1 million (Ђ816,643) for a fugitive warrant from California and another $1 million (Ђ816,643) for investigation of two counts of first-degree assault and one count of eluding law enforcement. Hussain's bail was to be set later. A prominent member of Canada's incoming Conservative government said Wednesday the party will stand behind its promise to arm the country's border guards.

Vic Toews, who will soon be a part of the government after serving as Canada's justice critic in opposition, said he did not relish the sight of Canadian border guards leaving their posts. Paula Shore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, confirmed late Tuesday that an unspecified number of guards abandoned their posts at several crossings along the British Columbia border when they heard the wanted men were coming their way.

"A few officers exercised their right to refuse to work because of what they perceived as imminent danger," Shore said. Under Canada's labor code, "any worker has the right to refuse to work if they feel they are in imminent danger," she said, adding managers took over for the guards, reports the AP. I.L.

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