Who is the Barefoot Bandit?
The relentlessly wily teenage thief Colton Harris-Moore was finally caught in the Bahamas, after two years on the run — and growing renown as a "folk hero"
Colton Harris-Moore's two-year run from the law ended Sunday, with a high-speed boat chase in the Bahamas. After leaving a trail of break-ins and stolen vehicles (cars, boats, and planes) back in the U.S., Harris-Moore (a.k.a. the Barefoot Bandit) has earned equal parts anger and idolatry — he has a fan club and more than 76,000 Facebook "fans," 20th Century Fox has purchased the film rights to his story, and several "folk-style ballads" have been written about him. How did this habitually shoeless teenage criminal become a folk hero? (Watch a report about the arrest of the "Barefoot Bandit")
Who is this guy?Colton Harris-Moore, 19, grew up with his mother, Pam Kohler, on Camano Island in Washington's Puget Sound. His father reportedly walked out when he was 2, but he had a good relationship with his stepfather until he was 7, when the stepfather died. He was first convicted of theft at age 12. At age 16, Harris-Moore was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention, but escaped a year later from a group home in April 2008. He had been on the run ever since.
Why is he called the "Barefoot Bandit"?He left bare footprints at several crime scenes — he's accused of more than 100 break-ins in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Indiana. True to his nickname, Harris-Moore was shoeless when he was captured.
What else is he known for?He eluded arrest in several states by, among other things, stealing and flying five airplanes, even though he had no flight training and reportedly had not even been on a plane before commandeering his first, a Cesna 182 (and crashing it after 300 miles). Cops have added to his mystique, saying that Colton "vaporized," "vanished," and "ran like lightning" after near-captures.
How was he finally caught?Authorities believe Harris-Moore flew a stolen Cesna from Indiana to the Bahamas on July 4, crashing the plane off the tip of Great Abaco island. Seven days and several break-ins later, police received a tip early Sunday, July 11, that he'd been spotted on nearby Harbour Island. He subsequently led the police on a high-speed boat chase in a stolen 32-foot boat with enough fuel to get to Florida, but was arrested after his vessel got stuck in shallow waters, allowing police to shoot out the engine.
What happens to him now?The Bahamas has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but authorities there say they'll prosecute him for his alleged burglaries on the islands before sending him back stateside.
What's behind his folk-hero status?His guts and resourcefulness, and the fact that he wasn't violent — in some cases, he would break into homes just to shower and watch TV. "You can almost draw a parallel to [Depression-era criminals like] Bonnie and Clyde," says ex-FBI agent Harold Copus. People who are going through tough times in this recession see Harris-Moore as a "little guy" who was "winning." His victims and pursuers weren't cheering, however. "People have been making him an idol and a hero when he's hurt so many hard-working people, broken into homes, stolen property, ripped off businesses," says Seattle FBI agent Steve Dean. "I think it's very, very sad."