In Bahamas, ‘Barefoot Bandit’ gets handcuffed
Teen accused of taking money, planes, boats in 2-year spree is arrested
NASSAU, Bahamas — For two years, he stayed a step ahead of the law — stealing cars, powerboats and even airplanes, police say, while building a reputation as a 21st-century folk hero. On Sunday, Colton Harris-Moore’s celebrity became his downfall.
Witnesses on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera recognized the 19-year-old dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” and called police, who captured him after a high-speed boat chase, Bahamas Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said at a celebratory news conference in Nassau, the capital.
Police flew Harris-Moore in shackles to Nassau. True to his nickname, the 6-foot-5-inch teen with close-shorn hair was shoeless as he walked off the plane wearing short camouflage cargo pants, a
Continued from A white long-sleeved shirt and a bulletproof vest.
Harris-Moore is blamed for several thefts in the Bahamas, and authorities said he will be prosecuted for those crimes before the start of any U.S. extradition proceedings.
Island police had been searching for the teen since he was believed to have crashlanded a plane on Abaco, where he was blamed for at least seven burglaries. The search expanded to Eleuthera after police there recovered a 44-foot powerboat that had been reported stolen from Abaco.
Police said several people reported seeing the teenager Wednesday night in the waters between Eleuthera and Harbour Island, a nearby tourist destination known for its art galleries. They discovered a series of break-ins the next day. Harris-Moore was spotted in the same area early Sunday.
Greenslade said the highspeed chase began about 2 a.m. Sunday after police received tips from members of the public that the suspect was on Harbour Island.
The chase ended in the waters off the Romora Bay Resort & Marina on Harbour Island, where security director Kenneth Strachan reported seeing a young man running through the bush barefoot with a handgun, said Anne Ward, who manages the property.
“When Kenny spotted him, he had a knapsack over his shoulder and a gun, and he was yelling, ‘They’re going to kill me. They’re going to kill me.’ He was running up the dock,” Ward said.
She said the fugitive ran back to the water and stole another boat but ran aground in the shallows, where police shot out his engine.
“At one point, the boy threw his computer in the water and put a gun to his head. He was going to kill himself. Police talked him out of it,” Ward said.
Police declined to say whether Ward’s account was accurate.
The teen had been on the run since escaping from a Washington state halfway house in 2008. He is accused of breaking into dozens of homes and committing burglaries in Washington, British Columbia and Idaho.
He is also suspected of Police found these chalk drawings in a grocery store on Orcas Island, Wash., after it was broken into in February. Colton HarrisMoore is suspected of multiple thefts in that area. stealing at least five planes — including the aircraft he is believed to have taken in Indiana and flown more than 1,000 miles to the Bahamas, despite a lack of formal flight training.
Some of what he is suspected of doing seemed intended to taunt police: In February, someone who broke into a grocery store on Washington’s San Juan Islands drew cartoonish, chalk-outline feet all over the floor.
Through it all, his ranks of supporters grew. Some of his more than 60,000 Facebook fans posted disappointed messages Sunday, while others promoted T-shirts and tote bags with the words “Free Colton!” and “Let Colton Fly!”
Even someone in the Bahamas had mixed feelings.
“I feel like it would have been good if he got away because he never hurt anybody, but then he was running from the law,” said Ruthie Key, who owns a market on Great Abaco Island and let Harris-Moore use her wireless Internet connection July 5.
“He seemed very innocent when I spoke with him at the store. I don’t think he’d hurt anybody,” Key said.
Harris-Moore is a skilled outdoorsman who honed his abilities growing up in the woods of Camano Island in Puget Sound about 30 miles north of Seattle.
His mother, Pam Kohler, has said he had a troubled childhood. His first conviction, for possession of stolen property, came at 12. Shortly after turning 13, he had three more.
Kohler has defended her son, saying the allegations against him are exaggerated. She has told the AP that she hoped he would flee to a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Reached early Sunday at her Camano home, Kohler said she had no comment.
Victims of the crimes Harris-Moore is accused of were happy to see him in custody.
“These people that support him, they’ve never been violated by having him break into their homes or businesses,” said Joni Fowler, manager of a cafe on Orcas Island, north of Seattle, where Harris-Moore is accused of taking as much as $1,500.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, said that after Harris-Moore faces charges in the Bahamas, her office would seek to extradite him to Washington state and coordinate with local jurisdictions about how his case would proceed.
“There are obviously many jurisdictions that would like to prosecute him,” she said.
Colton Harris-Moore escaped from a Washington state halfway house in 2008.