An officer from the Houlton Police Department speaks to a motorist who stopped at the Houlton port of entry that crosses into Canada at Woodstock, New Brunswick, shortly before noon on Friday, Oct. 26. Traffic was being redirected away from the crossing but Houlton police and officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that they could not comment on the situation. Credit: Jen Lynds

HOULTON, Maine — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested two men from Nova Scotia Friday following an incident that shut down the border crossing between Houlton, Maine, and Woodstock, New Brunswick, for about 12 hours, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

At around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, members of the New Brunswick RCMP responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle that had stopped in the area between the Canadian and U.S. ports of entry, according to a press release issued Friday evening by the RCMP.

The two men inside the vehicle refused to communicate with Canadian border officials or police. But at about 4:20 p.m., the men ended the standoff and drove the vehicle toward the U.S. port of entry where U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents took a 21-year-old man from Halifax and a 22-year-old man from Sackville, Nova Scotia, into custody and seized the vehicle, according to the release.

Despite the arrest, border officials did not reopen the crossing until about 10 p.m. after investigators had finished processing the vehicle and clearing the scene.

Traffic on both sides of the border was disrupted during the incident. U.S. border officials and police redirected traffic away from the crossing as the incident unfolded. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not return calls for comment.

But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a tweet just after 3 p.m. that officers continued “responding to an incident involving a suspicious vehicle.”

Officials asked motorists to take an alternate route and indicated that only the Woodstock-Houlton crossing was affected. State officials also posted signs along I-95 north of Augusta and around Bangor alerting motorists that the border crossing in Houlton was closed.

Traffic was stopped and an estimated 15 vehicles, including tractor-trailers, were lined up at about 11:40 a.m. at the Houlton port that crosses into Canada at Woodstock.

Motorists approaching the border were being redirected onto a section of Interstate 95 that takes drivers to U.S. Route 1 in Houlton.

A local man who said he was tending the grounds at the nearby Duty Free Americas store on the Houlton side of the border said shortly before noon he was not told anything about the situation, but police told him he could “evacuate if it would make him more comfortable.”

The Atlantic Travel Centre, located across the border in Belleville, New Brunswick, was evacuated just before 2 p.m., according to an employee who asked not to be named.
Carol Levaille and Michael St. Paul, both of Presque Isle, were stopped at the Duty Free Americas store Friday afternoon. They said that they had intended to go to Canada but received a call from a friend about the potential developing situation.

“We basically have to go home now,” she said. “With all of the police here, it looks like it is going to take awhile.”

A employee of the store, who said that he could not give his name due to regulations, said police had told him that a situation was “ongoing,” but he said he was not told to evacuate.