Boy Scout held at gunpoint at Canadian border

Does this sound right to you at all?  It sounds almost like a parody story, something from The Onion.  But… it isn’t.

From Todd Starnes:

Troop leader: Customs and Border agent held Boy Scout at gunpoint

A Boy Scout troop from the nation’s heartland is demanding answers and a U.S. senator is expressing outrage after a group of scouts was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, with one child allegedly held at gunpoint.

Jim Fox, the leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111, said the incident occurred earlier this month at a checkpoint along the Alaska – Canada border. The scouts and their leaders were on a 21-day trek from Iowa to Alaska – a trip that had been three years in the planning.

As their vans were moving through a checkpoint into the United States, one of the scouts snapped a photograph. [Imagine that!] Agents stopped the van and ordered all the passengers to get out. They told the underage photographer that he had committed a federal crime. It was unclear which agency with the Department of Homeland Security’s CBP agency was involved in the incident.

“The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and ten years in prison,” Fox told Des Moines television station KCCI.

During the search, one of the scouts tried to retrieve a bag from the roof carrier. When he turned around, Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the child.

“He heard a snap of the holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox told the television station.

The scoutmaster wrote a detailed account of the incident on his Facebook page. He said he tried to watch the agents search the van but was ordered to return to his vehicle. An agent followed him and told the youngsters “that the next one to leave the van would be handcuffed and detained.”

“The agent in charge informed me of the potential charges against (the) scout and informed me it is a violation of federal law for any American to take a picture of a federal agent or any federal building,” Fox wrote. [HUH?  Does anyone know anything about that?]

Fox said he and another member of the troop were interrogated by agents – forced to answer questions about their background.

They also wanted to know why the Boy Scouts were hauling “excessive amounts of lighters, matches and knives,” Fox said. After a lengthy delay, the Scouts were released without any charges being filed.  [Why indeed would Boy Scouts heading to Alaska have lighters, matches and knives?  It boggles.  The next thing you know they will also have tents, rope and back packs.  Then?  Who knows?  Compasses, for God’s sake!]

“The boys were unnecessarily frightened and intimidated,” [D’ya THINK?] Fox wrote. “When do we Americans decide enough is enough? The TSA and border guards are a valuable asset to the safety of this country, but to have such Gestapo tactics against a teenage scout is uncalled for.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agrees.

“It’s outrageous that a border patrol agent would point a gun at a boy scout just for taking a picture,” he told the television station. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

The senator’s office said they are looking into the matter.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. incredulous says:

    After much experience with police states of Zimbabwe and South Africa, it is more and more apparent that we have fully embraced the fascist police state of apartheid South Africa. You would be in grave trouble for photographing government buildings in South Africa.

    But, the kid didn’t play his cards right. He should have said, “Yo no hablo ingles. You busco la condición de refugiado.” Immediately we would give him passage on a commercial airliner without any identification at all. Every bleeding heart would commiserate “the culture of violence and oppressive government (including petty armed agents terrorizing innocent citizens with guns)” and bend over backwards to beat up as many Republicans as possible and making as much political gains against their opponents as possible. We clearly dispense with law when dealing with the “noble immigrant” and we make up oppressive laws like this incident demonstrates when dealing with US Citizens.

    Where we are going is very very disturbing indeed. As Father Z quouted a week or so back “the only people left with reason will be the faithful” or something like that. Thank God for the gift of Catholic teaching. Thank God. Thank God.

  2. pelerin says:

    Strange story! And curious that the Scouts were carrying lighters and matches as I always understood that they were supposed to start fires by rubbing two sticks together.

  3. SKAY says:

    Meanwhile at the southern border teenage ms13 “boy scouts” from other countries who have illegally crossed the border are ushered into the US and turned lose with all kinds of rights. US citizens who are Boy Scouts are obviously the problem and Obama is right on top of that threat.

  4. incredulous says:


    Now they use matches and hand sanitizer as an accelerant. (Works wonders on wet wood.) Times change for the Scouts and obviously for the country because at one point, Boy Scouts were considered the best path to producing God fearing, civic minded, sacrificing leaders. Now, they are pariahs as this incident and the attack of the homosexual lobby on them demonstrates. False victims of the white, homophobic Bible thumper are the new honorable class.

    It’s a bass ackwards world. God have mercy on us all.

  5. wanda says:

    But Father, but never know. These scouts may have been secreting away all the makings for..for..SMore’s!

  6. Sonshine135 says:

    At the southern border, God knows who is entering the United States, and no one bats an eyelash.
    Boy Scouts go for a camping trip, and everyone loses their mind.
    As we famously say in the south, “There is no fixin’ stupid.”

  7. iPadre says:

    This nation (government) has lost it’s freeking mind!

    I was at the airport in Kansas City a few years ago and witnessed the Homeland Security molest and elderly gentleman in front of his younger wife and their child. The poor guy was a typical American tourist being harassed. Yet, the one that could clearly be a terrorist walks right through without a hassle.

  8. iPadre says:

    freaking mind (tired of auto fill)

  9. LeGrandDerangement says:

    Thank God the Dept. of Homeland Security is all over this epidemic of Boy Scout trekking all over our northern border. Whew!

  10. LarryW2LJ says:

    Obama should have chartered a plane for these Scouts to bring them back to the USA, after all ….. what’s good for the Guatemalans ……..

  11. vetusta ecclesia says:

    Many of us Europeans refuse to travel to, or transit, the USA because of the surliness,aggression and delaying tactics of the US border officials.

  12. dans0622 says:

    I, a US citizen, have always had more trouble getting into the USA than into any foreign country. This was especially true coming, by car, from Canada.

  13. LarryW2LJ says:


    Many of us Americans have declined to travel overseas or anywhere, for that matter, as a result of not wanting to deal with the TSA and border officials.

  14. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    iPadre: Autocorrect will also occasionally throw in an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong. ;)

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Americans are just not getting it. The government wants to control everyone’s movements and is beginning to curtail movements. This is obvious when one travels a lot. The individual not connected to an international company will be more and more harassed at borders.

    To be an American citizen is not a protection any longer against the militarization of the police forces and immigration.

    If Americans think this is weird or a one off, they are mistaken. Soon, I honestly believe, people will not be able to move state to state. Why? Power over movement stops freedoms of all sorts.

    Just wait..

  16. capebretoner says:

    About 3 years ago, I was crossing over from New Brunswick to Maine. We crossed over a bridge and in the middle was a perfect scene with the American flag waving in the distance. So, I took a picture. Big mistake. When we got to the “checkpoint” I was asked for my camera because the officer saw me take the photo. I made the mistake of asking if he was serious; he was. After some polite conversation, explaining I had no idea that what I did was against the law, he let me delete all the pictures (didn’t matter that there was only one “offensive” pic) off the SD card, in front of him, and he “let” me keep my camera. I still can’t get believe what happened, and it was alot worse, apparently for the boyscouts. God love them. Blows my mind considering what appears to be happening at the other border in the south…………

  17. Defender of Truth says:

    It is not illegal to take photos of federal buildings or officers in so far as you are not impeding an officer and are not on private property. As someone has already mentioned, it is past the time when we citizens must reign in the militarization of all police, municipal, state and federal.

  18. APX says:

    As one with friends and family members who work for CBSA, I can’t take this story at face value. Yes, there are laws regarding a prohibition on taking photos at certain federal high-security areas, border crossings maybe one of them.

    Armed CBSA officers is a relatively new thing (prior they had to call in the Mounties) and not all are even armed yet. The story say allegedly and I will take that as such.

    There have been issues of people using children to smuggle drugs into the country.

    Also, people who don’t cooperate at the border crossing will not have a pleasant experience.

  19. robtbrown says:


    I have never had any problem with TSA. I comply with their requests and never argue with them–but it was amusing how they always gave my elderly mother a good going over

    IMHO, most of what you see at airports is Security Theater.

  20. LarryW2LJ says:

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin (and he actually did write that.)

  21. Reconverted Idiot says:

    No photos therefore no evidence gathering ability for those trying to expose such authoritarian idiots.

    Cue Mel Gibson ‘William Wallace’ voice-over: They can take our cameras, but they’ll never take our freedo… oh wait?!?

  22. Theodore says:

    Mark Steyn, columnist extraordinaire, commented on this last week.

  23. Rancid says:

    APX – These were not Canadian Agents. The article says they were entering Alaska. This was the US border agents.

  24. Gerard Plourde says:

    The problem of Customs Agents abusing their authority (especially in rural areas) is nothing new. Back in 1967 my family was traveling back from Montreal to the U.S. This was back in the era when only a driver’s license (which did not have a picture on it) was needed to cross the border. We had opted to cross back into New York on U.S. 11 instead of crossing over on the more heavily traveled I-87. Probably because it is the less commonly used route and our car had out-of-state plates the agent thoroughly searched the car. As Defender of Truth points out, it is not illegal to take photos of federal buildings or anything that is in plain view. Furthremore, according to the ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” Guide for Photographers ordering a photographer to delete information on a memory card is illegal.

  25. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I am not surprised in the least by this behavior of border agents.

    I’ve never crossed the Canadian border. But I have plenty of experience with the southern border. Back in the 90’s, when I would visit a priest right across the Mexican border, I witnessed aggressive words and/or tactics all the time by Border and Customs agents–it mattered not if you were American or what nationality you are. I knew to be on my best, most polite behavior because short of shooting someone, they can do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want.

    Pointing that loaded firearm at that kid is not unusual if you catch them on a bad day and don’t do what they tell you. “Back away from the vehicle and touch no luggage” means exactly that. Those of you who think anyone can walk across the southern border, or talk or act toward those agents, with so much as a smirk or attitude, do not know what you are talking about. Lecture them about your rights and, just for the fun of it, they will stick you in a “conference room” and leave you there for hours.

  26. NickD says:

    Fr Sotelo, from recent events, it looks like just about “anyone” really “can walk across the southern border,” so long as they’re headed north, saying, “We are refugees, Obama will take care of us.”

  27. dans0622 says:

    I have never crossed the southern border but I suspect that the agents on duty at the actual border crossings are as goonish as are those on the northern border.

  28. Moro says:

    I’ve never done a land Crossing but using a camera at crossings in airports and cruise ship terminals is in fact illegal. A border crossing is not like a traffic stop. They have more authority than a cop, so shut up and don’t do a thing lest you provoke them. They do have the right to search your bags as searching luggage at a border crossing is deemed reasonable by the courts. That said I’m not defending this officer’s overreaction.

  29. Dienekes says:

    I spent a career as a federal criminal investigator. I am long out of the business. And weird stuff happens everywhere. I am certainly no fan of government misconduct, particularly these days !
    But I would need to see a LOT more than a Todd Starnes story before I can draw any conclusions.

    My father always said to believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see. Good advice.

  30. markomalley says:

    FWIW, here is an update from the local Iowa television station, KCCI, that started this off:

    Feds open investigation into Iowa Boy Scout border incident

    DES MOINES, Iowa —Federal officials released a new statement to KCCI Monday in the incident involving an Iowa Boy Scout troop at the border.

    “The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Homeland Security, has opened in investigation into the allegations made concerning a July 7 incident along the U.S. –Canadian Border involving Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel and members of an Iowa-based Boy Scout troop. The OIG is taking the lead in the investigation, which is being conducted in conjunction with the CBP Office of Internal Affairs.”

    The investigation comes weeks after the Iowa Boy Scouts group said a federal agent patrolling the U.S./Canadian border pointed a loaded gun at one of the scouts. Troop Leader Jim Fox said the scout took a picture of the officer as the group tried to re-enter the U.S.

    Had disinfecting light not been placed on this story, I wager that the feds would have just seen this as normal day-to-day operations.

  31. Simon_GNR says:

    I’ve twice entered the U.S.A. over the land border with Canada, in 1991 and 2001 (a few weeks before 9/11), and on both occasions the immigration/border control officers were polite, welcoming and helpful – in fact, almost charming – on the second occasion my wife enjoyed being addressed as “Ma’am”. If, in the years that have passed since I last visited America, the immigration/border control have become rude and aggressive that is deeply regrettable and does nothing to encourage holidaymakers to visit the U.S.A.

  32. APX says:

    Sorry Rancid. My bad. It makes so much sense now with it being on the US side. I loathe crossing into the US since my prints are on file from my security clearance for work. CBSA tends to be more interested in collecting taxes.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Simon_GNR. Everything changed after 9/11. I was on missionary visa in Canada for several years and after 9/11, I had to leave. No one in teaching or catechesis was wanted anymore, although the shortage in Canada was and is dire. Canadian immigration is no fun for Americans, either. Years ago, Fr. Corapi’s entire electrical support team was turned away by the Canadian officials despite visas. He came to a home schooling conference fighting mad at this “persecution”. He was right about that.

    Even Americans have trouble at the borders now. Two friends of mine from Colorado coming through Canada from New York had horrific stories about the American side being “difficult”.

    We are no longer free, but under quasi-military rule. But, most people do not see it, as they choose not to do so.

  34. eulogos says:

    I lifted my camera to take a picture of the small customs building at the US/Canada ferry crossing from Cape St. Vincent NY to Wolfe Island. The Agent ran over to me and yelled , “No pictures. If you take a picture we will take your camera!” I was shocked. I was taking pictures of everything, I was on vacation, I was recording my trip. But he scared me sufficently to stop me, despite my naturally rebellious nature. I can’t see what harm a picture of the officers at their little shack would do anyone, or what bad use could be made of such a picture.

    On all other occasions these men have been very polite and only asked what we were bringing back from Canada and how much it was worth. Clothes, toys, books, a few hundred dollars? On the way out they asked what was the purpose of our visit. They never searched us.

    The camera provoked a completely different reaction.
    Susan Peterson

  35. eulogos says:

    By the way, if you as a parent traveling without the other parent try to take a child or children out of the country, expect to be stopped. My daughter (then 10 or so) and I had to get out of the car and wait while the agent phoned my husband to see if he knew and agreed with my taking my daughter to Canada. This was at that bridge at the top of Michigan. They wanted ID for my daugher; the only thing we could find (she was ten) was her season pass from our local ski area! We finally got through, though and they were not rude. Once I understood the reason I was OK with it.
    Susan Peterson

  36. Allan S. says:

    I clued into the “Alaska” thing right away. If you’re a federal public servant and a chronic screw up or otherwise on somebody’s sh*tlist, where do you think you’re sent?

    They’ve been limited to ‘protecting’ their country in an Arctic … as far away as possible from anything substantive. I’d be inclined to put it down to having to deal with career terminated morons, banished to penguin-land.

  37. Martlet says:

    “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the German National Socialist Party between the years 1932 to 1945?”

    “Are you a prostitute?”

    “Have you ever assassinated or attempted to assassinate a US President or other Head of State?”

    As far as I can remember the wording, those questions were actually on my application to immigrate to the USA.

    This is when you resist writing: Since my membership in the Nazi Party lapsed five years before I was born, I have had to eke out a living as an international assassin, supplementing my income with a little bit of street-walking outside of assassination season.

  38. pelerin says:

    Martlet’s comment made me laugh and reminded me of an occasion many years ago when I was interviewed by someone regarding the suitability of a friend’s son for a job with the national spy centre. His father was not English and I was asked if I knew whether his father had a radio in the attic. Somewhat taken aback I replied that if he did then surely it was unlikely that he would tell anyone. It must have been the right answer as the young man got the job!

  39. Simon_GNR says:

    Allan S. “…. banished to penguin-land.”

    Penguin-land is Antarctica, southern South America and South Africa – a long, long way from Alaska. Penguins are not native to the Arctic region, nor indeed to anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

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