NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) - 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. But 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 Sunday after a high-speed boat chase, Bahamas Police
Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said at a celebratory news
conference in Nassau, the capital.
Greenslade said shots were fired during the water chase but he
did not say who fired them. He also said Harris-Moore was carrying
a handgun that he tried to throw away.
Another senior police official, however, said police fired to
disable the motor on the suspect's stolen boat, and that
Harris-Moore threw his gun in the water. The official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the
case, also said that police recovered a laptop and a GPS locator
from the suspect.
Police flew Harris-Moore in shackles to Nassau. True to his
nickname, the teen with close-shorn hair was shoeless as he walked
off the plane wearing short camouflage cargo pants, a short-sleeved
shirt and a bulletproof vest.
Harris-Moore is blamed for several thefts in the Bahamas in the
week since allegedly crash-landing a stolen plane there, and
Bahamian authorities said he will be prosecuted for those crimes
before the start of any U.S. extradition proceedings.
The 6-foot-5-inch Harris-Moore 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
across Washington, as well as in British Columbia and Idaho.
He is also suspected of stealing at least five planes -
including the aircraft he allegedly lifted in Indiana and flew more
than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the Bahamas, despite a lack
of formal flight training.
Some of his alleged actions appeared intended to taunt police:
In February, someone who broke into a grocery store in Washington's
San Juan Islands drew cartoonish, chalk-outline feet all over the
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 about his arrest.
"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.
Island police had been searching for the teen since he allegedly
crash-landed the plane on Abaco, where he was blamed for at least
seven burglaries. The search expanded to Eleuthera after police
there recovered a 44-foot (13-meter) powerboat reported stolen from
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, but did
not know about the Barefoot Bandit until after discovering a series
of break-ins the next day. Harris-Moore's mistake was to return to
the same area.
James Major, who rents cars on Eleuthera opposite Harbour
Island, said a witness on his side of the channel reported a
sighting of Harris-Moore to police early Sunday. He said locals had
been on the lookout since the fugitive was blamed for trying to
steal four boats and breaking into two buildings at the ferry
"He might have been dangerous to the public," Major said.
"Everybody is glad he was caught."
Greenslade said the high-speed chase began around 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, according to 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.
Ward said the fugitive ran back to the water and stole another
boat but ran aground in the shallows, where police shot out his
"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 comment on whether Ward's account was
Harris-Moore is a skilled outdoorsman who honed his abilities
growing up in the woods of Camano Island in Puget Sound about 30
miles (50 kilometers) north of Seattle.
Harris-Moore's mother, Pam Kohler, has said that he had a
troubled childhood. His first conviction, for possession of stolen
property, came at age 12. Within a few months of turning 13, he had
Kohler has defended her son, saying the allegations against him
are exaggerated. She previously told the AP that she hoped he would
flee to a country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the
Reached early Sunday at her Camano home, Kohler said she'd heard
the news about the arrest but 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. "Just knowing
he has a huge network of supporters makes me really worry about the
state of this country."
Fowler said she hopes Harris-Moore's arrest and upcoming court
appearances will pop his mystique and fame - "once everybody
figures out he's no God."
Steven Dean, assistant special agent in charge for FBI's Seattle
office, said Harris-Morre's capture was bound to happen. "I think
if you go to a small island and stick out like a sore thumb" that
capture is almost inevitable, he said.
Asked about the teen's status as a folk hero, Dean said, "I
think it's ridiculous. I think that it's sad."
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Seattle, said that once 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
"There are obviously many jurisdictions that would like to
prosecute him," she said.
Shauna Snyder, a private investigator on Whidbey Island near
Camano, said she set up a legal defense fund for Harris-Moore at
the request of his mother. She said that although she didn't know
how much had been raised so far, the fund has been getting