Colton Harris-Moore, 18 year old “Barefoot Bandit”

Catch Him if You Can: The Barefoot Bandit

When Colton Harris-Moore was just 18 years old, he was being chased around the world by police for his crimes. The elusive chase would go on for two years before he was finally caught and captured by police in the Bahamas.

Colton was not your average teenage thief getting into minor mischief with the law. He was instead breaking into hangars and stealing planes, driving away in boats, and stealing cars. Before all of that began, Colton was living in a trailer in Camano Island, Washington with his estranged parents and a mother that was allegedly addicted to drugs and alcohol. His parents were reported to have both abused him not only mentally and verbally, but also physically. Since he was young, Colton dreamt of becoming a pilot as he was captivated by planes. He started his burglaries at the age of 10, breaking into neighbors homes when he knew they were gone, taking showers, washing his clothes, sleeping in their beds and eating his signature snack: popcorn. He was reported to have left footprints written in chalk, often with the words, C-YA! The police were hot on his trail by age 15, once he started stealing big-ticket items such as jewelry and laptops. He was arrested and placed in a juvenile halfway house in Orcas Island, Washington, where he soon escaped out of a window and began his two-year run around the world.

He started stealing large sums of cash from safes in businesses and hotels. He also had stolen a credit card from a hotel and bought with it a DVD from a hotel titled, How to Fly a Small Aircraft. Not long after he had stolen that video, he broke into a hangar on Orca’s Island to steal a man’s small airplane. When he tried to take off, the conditions were gusty, causing the plane to be tossed around as he flew over mountains over 250 miles through the state of Washington. He miraculously was able to crash land the plane and walk away from the aircraft, most likely barefoot, now his signature from all of his crimes. How did a 17 year old learn to fly? Allegedly, by watching the video he bought with the credit card stolen from the hotel. Its unclear how he managed to travel from Washington to Reno, NV (some say he jumped on a freight train), but he had obtained a job in a casino by lying about his age and was able to hold a job there for six months.

When Colton resurfaced again in Washington, he had become an international internet sensation. Instead of seeing him as a criminal that needed to be caught and who deserved punishment, fan clubs dedicated to Coltons adventures were springing up on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. While it was alleged that he stole guns and was considered by law enforcement as armed and dangerous, his fans did not see him that way. Run, Colton, Run!” were the cries of his fans. Soon, the Department of Homeland Security, the border patrols in the United States and Canada, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were involved in finding and catching the Barefoot Bandit.

After stealing more airplanes and now a boat, a worker in a veterinary office found a note allegedly left by Colton along with $100 of his stolen money that he asked be used for the care of animals. Though Colton always appeared to be one step ahead of the authorities, this note gave them an idea of where he was, which was back in his home town in Washington. But alas, by then he had already escaped to South Dakota.

Barefoot Bandit Note
Figure 1 obtained from

From South Dakota, he flew to Indiana, and from there he took himself over 1,000 miles to a small island in the Bahamas on a stolen airplane, once again crash landing in a marsh and walking away from the aircraft, unscathed. Tips began flowing in to the Bahamian police department where he was allegedly seen, but every time the police followed through, he was nowhere to be found. In a stolen yacht, he was seen talking to some teenage locals in a harbor where they quickly realized that they were talking to the man with a $10,000 reward on his head. By the time the teens contacted police, he already had a five minute roaring lead on them through the water. Borrowing a nearby boat, the police jumped in and took off toward Colton’s stolen boat. Shooting out the engines from behind, the police were finally able to arrest Colton.

He was deported back to Washington state where he plead guilty to state and federal charges of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft/boat/firearm, burglary, flying a plane without a pilot’s license, attempting to elude, being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, identity theft, illegal entry, illegally landing a plane, malicious mischief, motor vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, and theft by unlawful taking or disposition. He was sentenced to six and a half years for his crimes. He could be released as early as 2016.

In the end, Colton sold the rights to his story to be made into a movie, worth $1.3 million, money which he will never receive, as he owes his victims a combined amount of $1.4 million.

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Was Colton just a troubled kid trying to escape a rough childhood, or was he a cold, calculated criminal? Does his sentence fit his many crimes?

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