On this day in 2010, after an audacious two-year crime spree, Colton Harris-Moore—popularly known as the Barefoot Bandit—was caught and arrested by police in Harbour Island in the Bahamas. Armed officers apprehended Harris-Moore after he crash-landed a plane stolen from an Indiana airport and attempted to flee the scene.
Harris-Moore was suspected of approximately 100 thefts and evaded capture throughout the Pacific North West of America and Canada by stealing bikes, cars, boats, and light aircraft whilst funding his hermetic lifestyle with petty burglary and shoplifting from convenience stores.
He had been wanted previously for stealing and crashing another light aircraft in 2008 when he was just 17, but fled before facing trial. Without formal training or a pilot’s license, Harris-Moore had learnt the basics of flying by reading manuals and watching videos.
At his ensuing trial the judge was asked by Harris-Moore’s lawyer to take into account his client’s torrid upbringing whilst in the care of a drunken and abusive mother and a largely absent father. As a child, the lawyer pointed out, he often stole food from local stores out of necessity due to his parents’ neglect.
Harris-Moore was first convicted of stealing at the age of 12 and was subsequently admitted into detention centres for petty offences throughout his teenage years. He was sentenced to three years in a juvenile group home in 2003 but escaped and fled to the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, where he lived for some time in the woods, stealing food from nearby houses.
During his time on the run from the authorities he gained the moniker of “The Barefoot Bandit,” after he began leaving dirty footprints in the houses and stores that he stole from. Having broken into a store in Orcas Island, Washington, Harris-Moore even played up to his billing by drawing cartoon footprints on the floor of the premises before fleeing.
When news of his escapades became public, Harris-Moore was catapulted to international stardom, portrayed by captivated followers as a heroic vigilante and afforded fan pages and songs penned in his honour, alongside scores of bootleg merchandise bearing his image.
At his court trial on 27 January 2012, Colton Harris-Moore was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for multiple federal crimes including identity theft, illegally landing a plane and transport of a stolen firearm.
The 21-year-old is currently enrolled in a GED programme in prison and has expressed a desire to train as an aeronautical engineer upon his release. It has been proposed that the lucrative sale of his life story and movie rights, estimated in excess of one million dollars, will be used in part to repay the victims of his crimes.
Caption: A barefoot Colton Harris-Moore and his police escort in the Bahamas.