Teenage fugitive may have fled to Bahamas

July 8, 2010

Police in the Bahamas are searching for the 19-year-old accused of a rash of aircraft thefts and other crimes in the Pacific Northwest.

Colton Harris-Moore is now suspected in at least five airplane thefts and hundreds of other crimes, including burglary, theft, and credit-card fraud. Dubbed the “barefoot bandit” because of bare footprints he is accused of leaving at the scene of several crimes, the Washington native had been wanted by police in the Pacific Northwest and recently was suspected of traveling east committing more crimes. The theft of a Cessna 400 Corvalis from an Indiana airport and its discovery in shallow waters in the Bahamas July 4 fit the pattern of crimes attributed to Harris-Moore.

Federal prosecutors July 6 unsealed a criminal complaint against Harris-Moore in connection with the theft of a Cessna 182 from Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, in the fall of 2009. The complaint, filed in December, indicates that about 65 investigations had been initiated into crimes which list Harris-Moore as the primary suspect since 2008.

“These include residential and commercial burglaries, vehicle prowls, vehicle thefts, assaults on law enforcement officials and, of most import to this warrant, aircraft thefts,” it states. While the list of crimes of which Harris-Moore is suspected now number in the hundreds, the rarity of aircraft thefts and the cost of the airplanes stolen have contributed to Harris-Moore’s notoriety as a suspected airplane thief.

Airport WaterDespite the seriousness of the crimes involved, the 19-year-old has attained a sort of folk-hero status and could inspire others to attempt similar thefts, AOPA cautions. Even though the suspect may be out of the country, aircraft owners should continue to follow the recommendations of AOPA’s Airport Watch Program to protect their property and aircraft.