A suspect in a 1983 killing in Oklahoma was arrested when he showed up at the U.S. border in northwestern Washington and tried to enroll in a "trusted traveler" program for frequent border crossers, authorities said Monday.
Suhail Shanti of Burnaby, British Columbia, was wanted on a first-degree murder warrant issued in LeFlore County, Okla. He was arrested Friday when agents at the Pacific Highway Port of Entry in Blaine took his fingerprints as part of the interview process for the border crossing program and checked them against a nationwide database.
Agents confirmed the warrant with officials in Oklahoma, arrested the 48-year-old and turned him over to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office pending his extradition.
"It's like, `You're kidding me _ you're under arrest,'" said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Thomas Schreiber. "For them to walk in like this is just unbelievable."
Few details of the killing were immediately available. Marion Fry, LeFlore County's first assistant district attorney, told The Associated Press that his office was digging the case file out of storage, but that it involved a homicide in the city of Poteau. The defendant failed to appear for trial and the warrant was issued in April 1984, he said.
At the time, Shanti and the victim were both international students at a junior college now known as Carl Albert State College, Fry said. He believed they were both originally from Morocco.
It was not clear if Shanti had obtained a lawyer or how long he had lived in Canada. A voice mail message left on a phone number listed for a Suhail Shanti in Burnaby was not immediately returned.
The program he was applying for is called NEXUS, a joint U.S.-Canadian effort to speed border crossings for frequent travelers who pass a background check. Participants are given a photo identification card for use at the border.
Schreiber said it's not the first time that participants or aspiring participants have been arrested. He recalled the 2008 case of Charles Green, a Blaine resident whose approved status was revoked after he was charged with failing to appear in court on a larceny charge. Green showed up in the NEXUS office to appeal the decision and was promptly arrested.
"I like to put people in handcuffs," Schreiber said. "It usually means there's been an injustice somewhere and we're helping to right it."
Associated Press writer Rochelle Hines contributed from Oklahoma City.
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