Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ballad of Barefoot Harris

by Donna Pendergast

It would seem logical that Colton Harris-Moore would have a hard time hiding. The lanky six-foot-five 18-year-old would certainly stand out in a crowd, let alone on Camano Island. The island is a slightly less than 40-square-mile block of land in Puget Sound off the Seattle mainland. But the serial burglar has eluded police since walking away from a halfway house in April 2008. In the last two years he has gained a fan club, a large Facebook following, and national media attention for his exploits as he has outfoxed police at every turn. The one-man crime wave has made a mockery of local authorities in Catch Me As You Can Fashion while achieving cult hero status for committing crimes that seem straight from the movies.

The Stuff of Bad Legends, aka Momma Tried

Brought up for the most part by a single mother in a dilapidated trailer on Camano Island, Harris-Moore first became known to police after stealing a bike at age eight. First convicted of possession of stolen property at age 12, he quickly racked up three similar convictions within a few months of turning 13. By age 15, with nine previous arrests to his credit, he was sentenced in 2007 to more than three years in juvenile detention after being caught in an unoccupied home when a neighbor noticed lights on. Harris-Moore was later transferred to the halfway house, where he snuck out a window and into notoriety.

Among other things, the elusive escapee is suspected of committing scores of residential burglaries in Washington and Idaho, and in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, stealing money, credit card numbers and other valuables. He also takes necessities like blankets and food to survive day-to-day while running from the law. A bit of a survivalist, it is believed that Harris-Moore has managed to fly under the radar and avoid detection by living and hiding in camps in the woods, sometimes using infra-red goggles ordered off the internet. He is said to have a vast knowledge of northwestern plants and animals, and he's known to run through the woods barefoot and catch his own food. He is also known to enter unoccupied seasonal homes in remote areas in the islands around Seattle.

Harris-Moore's escapades range from breaking into houses for baths and ice cream, to stealing thousands of dollars from safes and ATMs in the Orcas Islands. On a larger scale, he is suspected of stealing boats and luxury cars, which he later abandons after committing his crimes. On one occasion Harris-Moore, in a Mercedes "borrowed" from a neighbor, eluded chasing police by bailing out of the still rolling car and slipping into the adjacent woods. The rolling car dislodged a propane pipe at a cafe and grocery, and pursuing police only narrowly averted a disastrous explosion. Authorities later found a self portrait on a digital camera on the front seat of the vehicle. That photograph (top) shows Harris-Moore lying in ferns wearing a polo shirt with the Mercedes logo. That shirt was taken from the neighbor as well.

Surveillance footage from many of the burglaries show Harris-Moore as a barefooted thief, earning him the nickname the "Barefoot Burglar." His sans-shoes proclivity has been parodied on YouTube in a song labeled The Ballad of Barefoot Harris. As light-hearted as the song may be, Harris-Moore recently revealed a more sinister side. He broke into a police car and stole a rifle. He later left a note saying "Cops wanna play huh!? Well it's no lil game ... it's war and tell them that." As a result of that note he is now considered armed and dangerous.

Perhaps most intriguing to his fans and followers is the suspicion that Harris-Moore has recently taken to joyriding in airplanes which he has taken by hotwiring and later crashed while managing to walk away unscathed. Although the evidence has not yet conclusively linked him to the robberies, four stolen airplanes have been found crashed near areas where Harris-Moore is suspected of committing crimes. With no formal flight training, but harboring a longtime fascination with flying, it is believed Harris-Moore taught himself to fly by reading flight manuals, playing video games and searching the internet.

Last month, during his most recent aviation aventure, Harris-Moore is believed to have nearly entered restricted airspace above Vancouver during the Winter Olympics before crash-landing on a runway at Orcas Island's Eastsound Airport. His handiwork was later discovered by the owner of a nearby market, who arrived later that morning to find his store burglarized. He also discovered giant chalk outlines of feet drawn all over the floor; meanwhile, his surveillance system sat in a sink under running water. Two of the chalk feet led out the market's door and were accompanied by a scrawled message that said "C-YA."

Harris-Moore's mother claims that her son is still in the area and goes out regularly in public while in disguise. Police officers who have caught a glimpse of Harris-Moore during his multiple misdeeds claim that he has an uncanny ability to vanish into thin air, or at least into the woods, in the blink of an eye. Law enforcement authorities have grown weary of Harris-Moore's cat-and-mouse games and vow to apprehend him sooner rather than later. We will see, in the meantime, as the legend of Barefoot Harris continues to grow.

Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinions or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.


cheryl said...

Momma didn't try too hard.

Soobs said...

Fans? Of a criminal? This is what's wrong with this country. And yes, I agree, that "momma didn't try too hard." A thief at 8 years old? His mother bears some responsibility.

Leah said...

Yes the mother does bear some responsibility but how stupid is the FBI for hiring Abignale [sp] after he check scammed for so many years. Maybe this kid is just hoping for a 6 figure salary too. Parolees cannot even get the lowest paying military job when they get out of prison.