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Colton Harris-Moore arrives barefoot, handcuffed and shackled as he is escorted by police upon arrival to Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday July 11, 2010. (Felipe Major/Associated Press)
Colton Harris-Moore arrives barefoot, handcuffed and shackled as he is escorted by police upon arrival to Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday July 11, 2010. (Felipe Major/Associated Press)

'Barefoot Bandit' nabbed in the Bahamas Add to ...

Colton Harris-Moore's life on the lam ended with a scene befitting the audacious crime tear that preceded it.

"They're going to kill me," he told the security director of a Bahamian resort and marina before he was nabbed, according to a statement the resort released to CNN.

For more than two years, North America's most infamous teen fugitive evaded police in the United States and Canada, leaving behind a trail of stolen cars, powerboats and small airplanes - and tens of thousands of online fans rooting for the "Barefoot Bandit" to stay one shoeless step ahead of the law.

But in the wee hours of Sunday morning, authorities finally caught up with Mr. Harris-Moore when the boat he helmed ran aground in shallow waters at the Romora Bay Resort and Marina near Harbour Island, Bahamas.

See where he's been

Kenneth Strachan, the security director, had spoken to the 6-foot-5 teen, who was sporting a knapsack and toting a gun, as he raced up a dock. Mr. Harris-Moore had driven a 15-foot skiff over from the nearby island of Eleuthera, resort manager Anne Ward said in the statement.

Police and marina staff disabled the skiff's engine while their target scoured the resort for another vessel, hopped in and ran aground shortly thereafter. Officers circled the boat and shot out its engines.

"At one point," Ms. Ward said in her statement, "the boy threw his computer in the water and put a gun to his head. He was going to kill himself. Police talked him out of it."

Mr. Harris was taken into custody and flown to Nassau. He stepped off the plane wearing camouflage cargo pants, a white long-sleeved shirt and a bulletproof vest.

His feet were bare.

The commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force later told a news conference that police had seized a firearm and several other items from the teen, who a local doctor checked over and pronounced "in very good health." He said shots were fired during the capture, but wouldn't reveal who fired them.

"It was like something you might see in the movies," Commissioner Ellison E. Greenslade said of the arrest.

There is cinematic sweep to Mr. Harris-Moore's life story; 20th Century Fox reportedly owns the rights.

Raised in a trailer on Camano Island, a wealthy community in Puget Sound about 50 kilometres north of Seattle, Wash., he logged his first criminal conviction at age 12 for possession of stolen property.

"He grew up in an impoverished home with money all around him," said Mike Rocha, the Everett, Wash. bounty hunter who had been tracking the teen since May. "I think it resulted in him wanting these things he couldn't have."

A string of petty thefts landed Mr. Harris-Moore first in jail, then in the juvenile detention centre from which he busted out in April, 2008.

After the escape, the bandit's alleged crimes grew worthy of 1980s TV secret-agent MacGyver: scaling buildings, busting into safes and teaching himself to fly small aircraft, at least five of which he is accused of stealing.

Mr. Harris-Moore is believed to have crossed the border into British Columbia some time last fall, when police began investigating a string of bizarre break-ins at the tiny airport in Creston, B.C., an hour west of Cranbrook. Somebody had tinkered with the planes and moved one around on the runway.

His mother, Pam Kohler, told The Globe and Mail last year that her son had a life-long fascination with planes and jets. "He's never had formal flight training. Do I believe he stole the planes? I don't know. I don't approve of it. But if he taught himself to fly, I'm very proud of him."

Ms. Kohler, who previously said she thought her son's criminal exploits had been exaggerated, retained high-profile Seattle lawyer John Henry Browne - who represented the serial killer Ted Bundy - and encouraged her son to contact him.

Mr. Harris-Moore will need the top-notch representation now.

Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Seattle, said that her office would seek extradition after the teen faces charges in the Bahamas - a country to which he allegedly escaped by flying more than 1,000 kilometres in a plane stolen from Bloomington, Ind., a little more than a week ago.

"There are obviously many jurisdictions that would like to prosecute him," Ms. Langlie said.

One of those jurisdictions includes his home island of Camano, and the neighbouring islands of Lopez and Orcas.

"They were a bedroom community that left their doors unlocked and the keys in their ignitions," Mr. Rocha, the bounty hunter, said. "That's changed."

But online, where "Colt" has legions of admirers, it didn't take long for the agitating for his release to begin: There is already a "Free Colt!" Facebook group.


The merchandise

  • Colton Harris-Moore is already on T-shirts. One online site is offering shirts emblazoned with WWCD - What would Colton do? - The keepers of his virtual fan club and Good Times Printing in Seattle are selling T-shirts with a silk screen of the teen's face and the phrase "Momma Tried."

The movement

  • Colton's momma is, indeed, trying to help her son. His fan club's site features a letter from Mr. Harris-Moore's mother, Pam Kohler, entreating admirers to donate to his legal defence fund. "Ever since my son, Colt, was 10 years old, the police have blamed him for crimes he did not commit. Now, there's not a break-in or a theft in the entire Northwest that the media or law enforcement doesn't rush to pin on Colt," she writes. "We have no way of knowing what charges will be filed against Colt." Elsewhere, a "Free Colt!" site has popped up on Facebook, where the teen enjoys a rabid following. "LEGEND! hope they go easy on you!" one admirer writes. "I wonder who will play him?" another asks.

The movie

  • Musing about who would portray Mr. Harris-Moore in a movie could become more than idle Facebook speculation. In April, Variety reported that 20th Century Fox bought the feature rights to Taking Flight: The Hunt for a Young Outlaw for Rough House Pictures to produce. The movie would be based on a book proposal by Bob Friel, who profiled Mr. Harris-Moore in adventure magazine Outside.
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