Notorious teen fugitive may be back on Orcas Island

Notorious teen fugitive may be back on Orcas Island
ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. - The country's most notorious teen bandit may be back on Orcas Island, officials say, after a stolen plane was found abandoned there and a grocery store was broken into overnight.

Colton Harris-Moore, also known as the "Barefoot Bandit," has a long history of burglarizing homes in Washington state and Canada, only to disappear into the woods without a trace.

Police suspect he's stolen planes, boats and luxury cars, and broken into dozens of homes and businesses, including several on Orcas Island during a previous crime spree there.

Now, he may be back on Orcas Island after an absence of several months, says San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming.

"The incidents we're investigating have many of the earmarks of his past activity in this county and elsewhere, so he would be a person of interest," Cumming told KOMO News.

Harris-Moore has been gaining attention and fame since he escaped in 2008 from a group home and then allegedly started stealing airplanes last September.

T-shirts were made, featuring Harris-Moore's self-portrait. Time magazine dubbed him "America's Most Wanted Teen Bandit," and others called him the "Barefoot Bandit" after he appeared shoeless on some surveillance videos. A Facebook fan page has attracted nearly 17,000 people.

But business people on Orcas Island, who already have lost thousands of dollars in theft and damage from previous break-ins, are no fans of his.

One business owner, who asked not to be identified, said, "I can't believe he's back here. He's already robbed us all."

The business owner added: "I swear the island's gonna come together, and we're all gonna dress in black and catch the SOB. ... We all feel that we are going to catch him. If the cops can't, we're going to."

After the most recent Wednesday night incidents, the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce sent a message to all members warning them to take precautionary measures.

The message said, in part: "If you haven't heard yet, it appears Colton Harris-Moore (the so-called Barefoot Bandit) is back on Orcas Island.

"An airplane taken from Skagit County was found abandoned at the Eastsound Airport this morning, and Homegrown Market & Deli was broken into, with lots of damage to internal security systems."

Kyle Ater, owner of the Homegrown Market, told KOMO News that he opened his business Thursday morning only to discover that someone had smashed his computer equipment with a hammer.

His security system also was heavily damaged.

"The burglar couldn't get the hard drive out of my security camera system, so he took the whole system and dropped it into the three-compartment sink and filled it with water. The water was running when I walked in the store, and there's water everywhere."


 Colton Harris-Moore is seen in a July 2008 photo recovered from a stolen digital camera memory card.
All of the sweets were taken from the store's dessert case. And Ater said the burglar left a "calling card."

"They took chalk and drew giant bare feet all over my store. He's known as the barefoot bandit. I think he was trying to send a little sign that he is here."

Two of the footprints were leading out the door, next to a chalk-scrawled message: "C-YA!"

San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming said the drawings of bare feet "certainly suggests that it is this person of interest or someone who is mimicking him."

But Cumming added that Harris-Moore typically does not leave that kind of sign.

"Regardless of who's responsible for putting it there, it certainly is taunting to investigators and victims," Cumming said.

The San Juan County Sheriff's office is investigating both the plane theft and store break-in, and the sheriff told business owners to take precautions in case Harris-Moore is back.

He said he does not blame island residents for feeling frustrated.

"They're exasperated and feeling vulnerable that they may be victims again of a person who is robbing and stealing from them," he said.

The teen fugitive is believed responsible for break-ins at many Orcas Island businesses last fall, after a stolen small plane crash-landed at the airport. Harris-Moore later was caught on surveillance video breaking into a grocery store. Other stores also were broken into in the days following.

A few weeks later, a Cessna was stolen from a rural airport in Idaho and crash-landed near Granite Falls, Wash.

The plane's owner found found bare footprints, including some on a wall, inside the hangar, where the thief apparently had put his feet up while eating.

In 2007, Harris-Moore was arrested in connection with several burglaries on Camano Island and later sentenced to three years behind bars. He escaped from group home for juvenile offenders in Renton in April 2008.

Harris-Moore is suspected in some 50 burglaries on Camano Island since he escaped from a halfway house in Renton last year. He's accused of stealing boats in the San Juan Islands, as well as stealing and crashing a small plane near Mount Vernon.