On this day in 2010, after a two-year manhunt, 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore of Washington state is arrested following a high-speed boat chase in the Bahamas. Harris-Moore was suspected of stealing an airplane in Indiana and crash-landing it in the Bahamas the week before. Nicknamed the “Barefoot Bandit” for going shoeless during some of his alleged crimes, the teen was a suspect in scores of other burglaries in the United States and Canada, where he was accused of swiping everything from potato chips to credit cards, small planes, boats and cars. During his time as a fugitive, Harris-Moore gained a cult-like following online, with fans viewing him as a folk hero and praising his brazenness and his uncanny ability to elude law-enforcement officials.
Growing up on Camano Island, Washington, Harris-Moore had a difficult, impoverished childhood. He reportedly stole food from neighbors, had a turbulent relationship with his mother (his father spent time in jail and is believed to have been largely absent from the family) and was often in trouble at school before dropping out in the 10th grade. His first criminal conviction was at age 12, for possession of stolen property.
In April 2008, Harris-Moore escaped from a Renton, Washington, juvenile halfway house, where he was serving time for burglarizing homes. Over the next two years, he continued his crime spree, breaking into a long string of private residences and businesses, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, while camping in the woods and unoccupied homes. The teen, who learned to fly without any formal training, became a suspect in the theft of at least five small planes, all of which he managed to pilot and safely crash-land.
In early July 2010, Harris-Moore commandeered an aircraft in Bloomington, Indiana, and flew it to the Bahamas, where he crash-landed on Great Abaco Island. He allegedly went on to commit a series of break-ins throughout the Bahamas, before being nabbed in a stolen boat by Bahamian police in the early hours of July 11.
Harris-Moore eventually pleaded guilty to seven federal charges, including two airplane thefts and a bank robbery, as well as more than 30 state charges in Washington, including burglary and identity theft. In December 2011, he was sentenced in state court to seven years in prison. In January 2012, a federal judge in Seattle sentenced Harris-Moore to six-and-a-half years behind bars, to run concurrently with his state time.
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