Gun Smugglers Arrested On U.S./Canadian Border — Then Released

Two gun smugglers were arrested on the border between the United States and Canada. The two tried to cross over into Canada from North Dakota and were instantly detained at gunpoint, when a loaded revolver was found under the driver’s seat. The owner of the firearm was taken to a holding facility in Winnipeg and jailed.

The two nefarious smugglers were Lowell Nickerson and Patti Bacun, and no, they’re not mastermind criminals or foreign weapon dealers. Lowel and Patti are actually retirees from Wisconsin.

So how did this all happen?

Lowell and Patti went on a long vacation. They drove up to Minneapolis in July with their Boston Terrier, Baily, and went to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. They drove west to Fargo and then hit some other stops in North Dakota. The couple had plans to meet up with some friends in Colorado later in the month. So, with a few weeks to kill, the wily smugglers decided to go roam around Canada.

According to the Journal Sentinel, Lowell, 60, and his wife, Patti, 63, are both retired firefighters from Florida. They currently live in Waterford, Wisconsin, except for the winters, when they escape back down to the Sunshine State. And contrary to what the Canadian border guards might have thought, neither one of them had criminal records.

At least that what Patti claims.

“A speeding ticket is the worst thing either of us has ever incurred. Lowell got fireman of the year. He has rescued babies out of windows.”

When they reached the border at Winkler, Patti irritated the guards by trying to document the crossing on her cellphone camera. If that wasn’t bad enough, the border guards scolded Lowell for wearing his sunglasses. Another red flag for the border guards was the married couple’s lack of destination or travel plans.

When Lowell and Patti were asked if their Honda SUV contained any firearms, Lowell answered “no.”

The guard searched the truck and found a loaded revolver under the seat. Before it dawned on Lowell what was happening, the guard’s own gun was pointed at his chest. Lowell admitted the gun was his as he was turned around and handcuffed.

Handguns are listed as Restricted Firearms in Canada, and can only be brought into the country with a special permit, according to the United States Canadian Embassy. You also have to declare them when you cross the border.

Later, Lowell explained that the gun was his father’s, and hadn’t been fired in over 40 years. The revolver had always been in his Suburban, and when he’d sold it, he’d put it under the seat in Patti’s Honda and forgot about it.

That wasn’t a good enough explanation for the Canadian border guards, however. Their car was seized and Lowell was placed in jail in Winnipeg, while Patti scrambled to figure out how to get him out. (Patti wasn’t arrested because Lowell admitted that the firearm was his.) After a terrifying stay in what can only be described as Winnipeg’s version of Rikers Island, (the food was “not bad,” Lowell remarked) Patti and Lowell were put in touch with a Canadian Defense Lawyer.

In the end, Lowell was convicted of smuggling under Canada’s Customs Act and lying to border guards. He and Patti paid a $13,000 fine, and Lowell was released four days after being arrested. He was driven back to the border to meet Patti and given his deportation papers.

Lowell was lucky, says his defense attorney. Normally, someone convicted of the same charges could spend a minimum of three years in prison.

Lowell was more than shocked at the entire experience.

“I’m supposedly never allowed in Canada the rest of my life.”

Canadian citizens can sleep better tonight knowing their border guards are keeping a watchful eye out for smugglers like Lowell and Patti.

[Image via allwall]