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Suspected 'Barefoot Bandit' Nabbed In Bahamas

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Seattle's favorite alleged criminal has been busted. Accused serial burglar Colton Harris-Moore has been one step ahead of authorities in western Washington for several years, since his juvenile delinquent days. He's even believed to have stolen small airplanes — one of which apparently got him as far as the Bahamas, where he was finally caught this weekend. He's become an instant cable TV star, but many people back on his home island in Puget Sound don't think he deserves the attention.


Now the story of a man who has a popular Facebook fan page because he broke the law - something of a latter day Jesse James. The so-called Barefoot Bandit is no longer on the lamb. Nineteen-year-old Colton Harris-Moore, a small-time burglar from Washington state, was captured this weekend in the Bahamas.

NPR's Martin Kaste reports from Seattle.

MARTIN KASTE: Harris-Moore has been in trouble with the law since he was convicted of possessing stolen property at the tender age of 12. In the years since, police say he plagued the quiet island communities of Washington's Puget Sound, stealing cars, airplanes and identities. His ability to dodge arrest turned him in to a cottage industry for local news media. But this weekend, the story went international.

This is Commissioner Ellison Greenslade of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

ELLISON GREENSLADE: I am pleased to say that the suspect, who has been positively identified as Colton Harris- Moore, aka the Barefoot Bandit, was flown to the capital city of Nassau, Bahamas under police escort and remains in police custody.

KASTE: Barefoot Bandit, because Harris-Moore likes to go shoeless, an image reinforced by news footage of his bare shackled feet. But what's really got people's attention is the way he got to the Bahamas. Police think he stole a plane in Indiana and flew there. Not bad for someone who's not actually a pilot.

Back in Washington state, San Juan County sheriff Bill Cummings believes the Barefoot Bandit has taken off and stolen planes on at least three other occasions, though he seems to have more trouble bringing them back down again.

BILL CUMMINGS: They were hard landed and it was amazing that he was able to walk away from these so-called landings that he engaged in. But he did manage to pull that off time and again.

KASTE: Between the hard landings and the Bahamian police's account of a final, quote, "high-speed boat chase," it's no wonder there's already talk of a movie deal. Harris-Moore's mother, Pamela Kohler, has reportedly hired Courtney Love's lawyer to represent her in any entertainment deals. In a statement released by the lawyer today, Kohler said she's relieved her son is safe and that no one was hurt during his capture.

In the past, Kohler has been quoted expressing pride in her son's exploits. And that doesn't go down well on Washington state's Camano Island, where Harris- Moore is suspected of dozens of burglaries. Mark Brown is the local sheriff.

MARK BROWN: Sensationalizing him as a cult hero is something I've been against from the start. I think that's wrong and for my part I hope I'm not contributing to that.

KASTE: Now the media can look forward to the prosecution phase of this story. Despite the fact that today is a holiday in the Bahamas, police there have already said that Harris-Moore will face, quote, "a litany of charges in their system." After that, if he's extradited to the U.S., he's probably headed to court in Washington state.

Law enforcement officials here say they hope to keep the proceedings from generating more hoopla than the case deserves.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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