Police in the Bahamas have arrested the "Barefoot Bandit", a teenage burglary suspect who became an internet sensation after eluding capture for years. Legal experts say he could face seven to 15 years in prison if convicted.
AFP - Fugitive burglar and Internet folk hero, the "Barefoot Bandit," was nabbed by Bahamas police Sunday after one last daring attempt to evade capture -- this time in a stolen boat.
Bahamian authorities said 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore was arrested seven days after they found the wreckage of a stolen plane he is believed to have flown to the archipelago.
"In an effort to avoid capture, the suspect engaged in a high-speed chase, by boat, with police," a police official told reporters.
"After a brief chase, the suspect was taken into custody without incident," he said, adding that Harris-Moore was arrested with a firearm and other evidence.
The official did not confirm a Fox News report that the dramatic water chase included a shootout, but noted that a doctor had found him to be in very good health.
Harris-Moore achieved outlaw folk hero status for his uncanny ability to elude authorities for years -- on foot, in stolen cars and even airplanes.
But after a long string of burglaries in at least six states in the United States as well as in Canada, the teen was taken into custody on the Bahamian islet of Eleuthera off the coast of Florida.
He is due in court on Tuesday to be charged with several crimes that unfolded on two Bahamian islands since his plane crashed in the territory.
Police told AFP he was expected to be turned over to US authorities under an extradition treaty. Legal experts estimate he could face seven to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Romanticized by some as a latter-day "Billy the Kid," but regarded by others as a common thief, Harris-Moore has a criminal record stretching back to the age of 12.
His legend took on a new dimension late in 2009 when a private plane crashed in the Cascade Mountains, east of Seattle. It had been stolen in Idaho, close to where a rash of burglaries had occurred.
Investigating one of the burglaries, police found bare footprints leading up to the door and inside the Idaho hangar where the stolen plane had been stored. And so the mystery of the Barefoot Bandit was born.
More crimes were soon attributed to the teenager, including another plane theft, this time in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle in late 2008.
The wunderkind burglar, subject of an international manhunt, grew up on rural Camano Island, north of Seattle, on the US Pacific Coast. Caught in 2007, he was sentenced to a halfway house in the city, but he walked away in 2008 and disappeared with no trace but a string of crimes.
Within months, he was suspected of more than 50 burglaries.
Sheriff Mark Brown of Island County, Washington, said he was "thankful" for the arrest.
"Now agencies whose citizens have been victimized by this fugitive can begin coordinating the legal process of holding him accountable for the numerous crimes he has committed," Brown said in a statement.
A Washington bounty hunter who has been looking for the teenager since early June, Mike Rocha, said: "I think it's fantastic. The greatest thing is that nobody was hurt."
In a digital camera recovered from his stolen booty, police found a self-assured smirking self-portrait. The photograph soon became the public face of the teenaged robber, now an Internet idol.
A fan page set up on the social networking site Facebook has over 68,600 members.
One Washington state area sheriff's deputy said he nearly caught Harris-Moore in the woods and had him in his flashlight before the lanky, six-foot, five-inch (1.98-meter) suspect "virtually vaporized in front of me."
He recalled hearing Harris-Moore laughing loudly from the woods when he realized he had eluded capture.
A Hollywood producer reportedly wants to make a movie of Harris-Moore's life.
His mother, Pam Koehler, has hailed her son as a genius, even if of the criminal sort. "He's smart. He took an IQ test a few years ago and he's three points below Einstein," she said last year.
Date created : 2010-07-12