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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published July 16 2012

Border Patrol stop, clear Canadian man in Grand Forks with same name as North Carolina attempted murder suspect

GRAND FORKS – Several law enforcement officers, including the U.S. Border Patrol and Grand Forks police, stopped traffic on Interstate 29 in Grand Forks shortly after 11 a.m. Monday to detain a man suspected of being wanted for attempted murder in North Carolina.

But it turned out he “was all clear,” the victim of having the same name as an alias used by the man actually wanted in the North Carolina crime, said Brian Pigg, assistant chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol’s sector office in Grand Forks.

The driver of a light blue van with Manitoba plates crossed into North Dakota on Monday morning at the U.S. border crossing at Pembina, N.D. After the man continued south, U.S. Customs officers continued their routine checking of his name, which came up matching an alias used by a man wanted for attempted murder in North Carolina, Pigg said.

“It was a delayed response,” he said, part of the routine check of anyone crossing the border. The check took longer to flag the man’s name because it matched an alias rather than a suspect’s actual name.

The apparent match led to a quickly assembled law enforcement action to intercept the van as it approached Grand Forks.

Border Patrol agents, local police and other officers were ready and waiting for the van and pulled it over just north of the University Avenue overpass in the southbound lane of I-29 about 11:30 a.m.

Dozens of vehicles were backed up in the southbound lanes as law enforcement officers arrested the possible suspect.

The man was taken to the Border Patrol facility west of the Grand Forks International Airport and fingerprinted. It quickly became clear he was a Canadian resident who had nothing to do with the North Carolina crime, and he was sent on his way within 30 minutes, Pigg said.

The man took it in stride and went on to do his shopping in Grand Forks, said Josh Hoeckle, public affairs officer for the Border Patrol.

Pigg said there is no reason to think the man wanted in North Carolina is or has been in this region.

Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald