TOOELE — A Utah girl on her first road trip outside of Utah ended up in a Canadian jail after taking a wrong turn and not telling border agents about a gun in her vehicle.
Tatiana McEwan and one of her girlfriends planned a visit to Washington state.
"We're two 19-year-olds (on) our first road trip," McEwan said. "We were just excited to get out of Utah."
For protection, her friend's boyfriend stashed an unloaded 9mm handgun in McEwan's car. They were staying with relatives in Blaine, Wash., where the city’s northern boundary is the Canadian border. On April 6, they decided to find a mall to do some shopping.
"The sign said 'Freeway entrance' and then 'Border,' so we said, ‘We'll just get off before the border,'" McEwan said.
However, the teens didn't know there wasn't an exit before the border. They arrived at the Canadian border, near the Port of Douglas, in the city of Surrey in the province of British Columbia.
Despite simply wanting to turn around, the girls were questioned by border patrol agents.
“The border patrol people were like the whole time, ‘You have drugs in the car. You have drugs,’” McEwan said. She said she kept telling them, “Seriously, we do not have drugs in the car. I promise we don’t have drugs in the car.”
They were asked if they had any weapons in the car. “We said, ‘No we don’t have any weapons in the car. We just want to flip around and go home.’”
The vehicle was searched and agents found the gun. “The next thing I know, the guy comes in and arrests me and says, ‘We found a gun in the car. You smuggled this into Canada.’”
She then spent the next eight hours in jail. “It was horrible, I was scared,” she said. “I am not a crier, and I was almost in tears.”
Tatiana McEwan was charged with smuggling goods into Canada, giving a false statement and unauthorized possession of a firearm. After this trip, she is banned from entering Canada.
She was released on $500 bail, and she immediately called her father.
"He gets off the phone and says, ‘You're not going to believe what happened to Tatiana,'" said her stepmother, Kimberlee McEwan. "He said she was arrested in Canada for gun smuggling."
Kimberlee McEwan said she had no idea how serious it was in Canada to have a handgun.
"I thought it's not that big of a deal," she said. "I was wrong."
McEwan said she admits she should have told the border agent about the gun, but it was a thought that didn't cross her or her friend's mind. Regardless, Kimberlee McEwan said she thinks the charges are absurd.
"Tatiana doesn't even have a passport," she said. "She wouldn't even be allowed in the country."
Her mistake cost her $1,000 to retrieve her car, $7,500 in attorney fees and $1,500 in fines.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company