The Barefoot Bandit, a Master Criminal Before the Age of Twenty
The story of Colton Harris Moore
Known as The Barefoot Bandit, Colton Harris Moore was a young man with extraordinary talents. His exploits gained him a cult following on social media.
Nicknamed the barefoot bandit because he committed crimes without wearing shoes, Moore has become a cultural icon with books and documentaries chronicling his escapades.
This all happened to Moore before his twentieth birthday, making him one of the youngest master criminals in American history.
Moore was born on 22 March 1991 to a highly dysfunctional family. His mother, Pamela A. Kohler, was a heavy drinker, and his father, Gordon Moore, was a drug addict. Moore grew up in a trailer in Mount Vernon, Washington.
He first displayed behavioural problems at seven when he absconded the family home. During this time, he would live in the wilderness and support himself by stealing supplies from shops, breaking into vacation homes, and making himself comfortable.
His first conviction came at twelve when he was charged with stealing property. At this point, he was diagnosed with depression, intermittent explosive disorder, and attention deficit disorder. It was primarily believed that he stole to stay alive.
Moore spent time in and out of juvenile detention and soon dropped out of school. When he failed to attend a court date, an arrest warrant was released in 2006, and Moore went on the run.
On 9 February 2007, Moore was caught living in a luxury home. He had been on the run for more than six months. During this time, he had burglarised homes and taught himself to steal identities.
When arrested, he faced twenty-three separate criminal charges, most of which were residential crimes. He pleaded guilty to three of the crimes, which led to him receiving a three-year sentence at Green Hill School.
Green Hill was a high-security detention centre. During his time there, it was commented on how well-behaved he was. Due to this good behaviour, he was transferred to the less secure Griffin Home. On 29 April 2008, he escaped through a window. A felony warrant was issued for his arrest.
On the Run
After breaking out of Griffin Home, Moore stole a car and went to Camano Island; he then stole a boat and relocated himself to Orcas Island. The police became aware of his presence in the area due to increased burglary reports.
Breaking into the homes, he would access the computer in the property and order credit cards in the homeowners’ names. He would then purchase food and high-tech survival gear with these. He even purchased night-vision goggles to help evade the police.
However, Moore was not at the end of his criminal career. He was just beginning.
Come Fly with Me
On 12 November 2008, Moore walked into an airport and stole a Cessna 182, flying 300 miles. The case reached the media as the plane belonged to radio personality Bob Walters.
Moore had never flown a plane before or even sat in the cockpit; still, he managed to take off, fly it and land successfully without any danger. He states he worked it out as he went along, from reading manuals and playing flight simulator games.
He stole his second plane, a Cirrus SR22, from the San Juan Island public airport a year later. He flew it to Orcas Island, landing it on its public airport runway. Then, on 29 September 2009, he broke into a Bonners Ferry aeroplane hangar and made off with another Cessna 182, which he managed to fly 260 miles west.
In 2010, an animal shelter received a letter containing $100 and a note from the Barefoot Bandit. The note said, “Drove by, had some extra cash. Please use this money for the care of animals.”
The fourth plane he stole was a Cirrus SR22 from the Anacortes Airport on 10 February 2010, when he landed on Orcas Island. His last theft of a plane was on 4 July 2010; Moore stole a Cessna plane from an airport in Bloomington, Indiana and crash-landed it in the waters around the Bahamas
Over his flying time, he stole five planes, crashing three without significant harm and flying hundreds of miles.
Moore’s actions caused a country-wide search for him, resulting in a $10,000 reward. The FBI eventually captured him in the Bahamas, although this was not without incident.
The Royal Bahamian Police Force had received several calls to the tip line to say that he had been sighted on the island; this, with the rise in theft, alerted the FBI that this was Moore’s new home.
Local officers went to arrest him. He attempted to steal a 44ft power boat, and a chase ensued. The officers, pursuing, managed to shoot the boat’s engine and stop the vessel.
When Moore realised he was about to be captured, he threw his computer in the water and put a gun to his head. Luckily police managed to reason with him, and he was arrested. He informed the police he was hoping to flee to Cuba.
On 16 December 2011, Moore was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was placed in Island County jail in Washington.
Life after prison
During his time on the run, Moore had built up a colt following. Everyone talked about the barefoot bandit who had evaded the police for so long. You would have thought that after prison, he would lead a life in the spotlight; however, this could not be further from the truth.
Moore was released in September 2016 and has mainly stayed out of the public eye. His mother had passed away from lung cancer months before his release, so he was placed in a halfway house near Seattle.
This has not been the end of Moore’s career in flying, though. In December 2016, he started a GoFundMe account to raise $125,00 to fund a place in flight school. Once discovered by his parole officer, Moore was persuaded to return the funds.
Whether the barefoot bandit will strike again remains to be seen.