Colton Harris-Moore – modern day catch me if you can
// December 25th, 2012 // Strange
He first appeared on the police crime blotters at age 8 – for stealing a bicycle. As he grew older his criminal escapades progressed and soon he was arrested and jailed. He escaped from jail in April 2008, resuming his criminal activities, he set out on a crime rampage. He has stolen four airplanes (while never having taken flying lessons), three boats, several cars, and has broken into over 100 homes and businesses. He has used stolen credit cards to purchase hi tech equipment (including night vision goggles) to aid in his crimes. He’s cracked safes and pilfered their contents and has broken into and raided bank ATM machines. He’s located on a 94 square mile island, isolated from the mainland, and has a penchant for pizza. At 17 years old, Colton Harris-Moore is a real life “catch me if you can” criminal that outfoxed and frustrated the police and FBI for over 2 years.
Colton Harris-Moore, the 6′ 5″ youth, has become a modern day Huckleberry Finn legend from his ability to evade the police who have used speedboats, police cars, and black hawk helicopters in attempts to corner and catch him. In several instances, police have noted that after cornering the wily thief, he literally “vanished” without a trace. Today there are Colton Harris Moore fan clubs on the Internet and fan clubs selling t-shirts bearing his picture and “fly, Colton, fly” and “mother tried” printed on them. His facebook page has over 20,000 members and growing.
Colton Harris-Moore, or Colt as he’s known in his home town of Camano Island, Washington, was born March 21, 1991 to Pam Kohler. He stumbled through an unusually harsh life. His abusive father abandoned the family when Colt was two years old, slipping away after choking Colton at a family barbeque. His mother raised him in a mobile home planted in the woods and surrounded by the burnt out shells of old vehicles. His mother remarried but his stepfather died when he was 7 years old. His mother noted that around this time Colton began to display erratic behavior, getting into trouble at school and purposely breaking things around the house. According to Pam Kohler, “he wouldn’t listen to his teachers, started altercations at school, and sometimes deliberately broke things around the house”. He was first accused of theft around this time but police soon discovered that the bike he was accused of stealing was actually a birthday gift. Many believe his crimes are nothing more than a means to live a “fantasy life” rather than an attempt to burglarize for monetary gain. In some break-ins he merely soaked in a hot batch or plopped on the couch while eating mint ice cream from the owner’s freezer.
As his crimes progressed, police realized that this serial thief was unusually cunning. Reported by his mother to have an IQ “three points lower than Einstein”, in some cases Colt took unusually brilliant steps to cover his tracks. In one break-in, Colton discovered the family’s security cameras hidden in the corner of a living room. When the family returned home, their first indication of a break-in was the disassembled cameras sitting in the kitchen sink with water running over them. In another instance, as he was being pursued by the police, Colton purposely crashed a stolen car into a gas storage tank creating a huge explosion as a diversion for his escape into the nearby woodlands. According to one sheriff, “we saw him, we think, but it’s like he vanished in front of our eyes.”
During a burglary, if Colton came across credit cards or Social Security numbers, Colton would use those to order goods (often items he could use in later burglaries) and have them shipped to the same home. He would then break back into the home and steal the goods back.
In another instance, when sheriff’s deputies were waiting for him at a home he had previously burglarized, Colton entered the home using a key he had stolen. Police recognize him but before they could grab him, Colton sprayed them with pepper spray and sprinted out the door. Police later said, “he was on his way out the door almost as fast as he came in.”
In November 2008, Colt stole his first airplane, a Cessna 182, and flew it 300 miles, before crashing it on an Indian reservation (police believe he has yet to figure out how to land the planes). The theft was even more unusual given that Colton had never taken flying lessons. Police soon discovered evidence showing that Colton Harris-Moore had ordered a flying manual on the Internet and taught himself to fly using the Internet manual and video game simulations. He subsequently stole several more planes, crashing each on farmlands around the area. When his mother was told about the airplane thefts and asked whether she thought her son was capable of such a miraculous theft she beamed, “I hope to hell he stole those planes. I’d be so proud. But next time, I want him to wear a parachute. I was going to buy him flying lessons but now I guess I won’t have to.”
In late 2009, police recovered a stolen Mercedes Benz with a digital camera sitting on the front seat. They reviewed the photos on the storage card and were stunned to find a self captured picture of Colt, headphones plugged into his ears and wearing a black Mercedes shirt, smiling back at them. Embarrassment prompted an all out raid on his mother’s mobile home and to their dismay, Colton stealthily slipped out the back and disappeared into the woods. After the raid the police received a warning from Colton, “Cops wanna play huh!? Well it’s no lil game…..it’s war!”. Soon after they discovered that Colton had broken into one of the sheriffs cars taking various police equipment including a bolted down shotgun (for which he was thereafter classified as armed and dangerous).
He earned himself the nickname of “the barefoot burglar” by committing some of his crimes while barefoot. In at least one of the airplane thefts, there were bare footprints inside and outside the hangars that had been broken into. In another instance, footprints were on the wall – indicating that Colton had put his feet up, apparently while eating. In another instance, large three-foot cartoon like footprints were drawn throughout the ransacked house leading to a back door with a final message, “CYA”, drawn near the doorway.
His mother freely admits that she sometimes talks to him on the phone (using an untraceable mobile phone) but claims she has no idea where he is located. “I figure I’ll spend my time with him in a positive way,” she said, “because who knows if he’ll be shot tomorrow?”
Colton Harris-Moore was finally caught on July 11, 2010 after high-speed James Bond like boat chase in the Bahamas. He had flown there from Indiana using a plane he had stolen.
Colton Harris-Moore was taken into custody in the waters off Harbour Island in the Bahamas after a reported sighting came in from a civilian. Marina security director, Kenneth Strachan said Moore came running down his dock about 2:00 AM Sunday July 11, 2010 carrying a gun and a knapsack slung over his shoulder. “They’re going to kill me” Moore shouted as he ran by. Moore had landed on Harbour Island on a 15-foot skiff which he had driven from nearby Eleuthera Island. Marina security director Strachan immediately put out an alert requesting help as soon as possible.
As Moore ran from the marina through the resort’s property, authorities quickly disabled the skiff’s motors. Moore jumped into a 2nd boat and attempted to take off but the boat stuck in the mud (Moore did not realize the water was so shallow in the area he attempted to take off from). Authorities drew guns and Moore threw a computer he was carrying into the water and put a gun to his head. Police talked Moore out of committing suicide and Moore then surrendered with no resistance.
Police discovered that Moore had reached the Bahamas islands via a stolen plane.
Colton was charged with 33 counts of burglary, theft, and other charges. He plead guilty and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Fox bought the film rights in a deal that could be worth $1.3 million and a screenplay is in the works. The Barefoot Bandit will keep non of the profits made from the deal.
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