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Washington state teen's two years as fugitive ends in Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas — For two years he stayed a step ahead of the law — stealing cars, powerboats and even airplanes, police say, while building a reputation as a 21st century folk hero. On Sunday, Colton Harris-Moore's celebrity became his downfall.

Witnesses on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera recognized the 19-year-old dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" and called police, who captured him after a high-speed boat chase, Bahamas police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said.

Greenslade said shots were fired during the water chase but he did not say by whom.

Police flew Harris-Moore in shackles to Nassau. True to his nickname, the teen with close-shorn hair was shoeless as he walked off the plane.

Harris-Moore is blamed for several thefts in the Bahamas in the week since allegedly crash-landing a stolen plane there, and Bahamian authorities said he will be prosecuted there before any U.S. extradition proceedings.

The 6-foot-5 Harris-Moore had been on the run since escaping from a Washington state halfway house in 2008. He is accused of breaking into dozens of homes and committing burglaries in Washington, British Columbia and Idaho.

He is also suspected of stealing at least five planes — including the aircraft he lifted in Indiana and flew more than 1,000 miles to the Bahamas, despite a lack of formal flight training.

Some of his actions appeared intended to taunt police: In February, someone broke into a grocery store in Washington's San Juan Islands and drew cartoonish, chalk-outline feet on the floor.

Through it all, his ranks of supporters grew. Some of his more than 60,000 Facebook fans posted disappointed messages Sunday, while others promoted T-shirts and tote bags with the words "Free Colton!" and "Let Colton Fly!"

"I feel like it would have been good if he got away because he never hurt anybody, but then he was running from the law," said Ruthie Key, a store owner in Great Abaco Island who let Harris-Moore use her wireless Internet connection July 5.

"He seemed very innocent when I spoke with him at the store. I don't think he'd hurt anybody," Key said.

Harris-Moore is a skilled outdoorsman who honed his abilities growing up in the woods of Camano Island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle.

Harris-Moore's mother, Pam Kohler, has said that he had a troubled childhood. His first conviction, for possession of stolen property, came at age 12. Within a few months of turning 13, he had three more.

Washington state teen's two years as fugitive ends in Bahamas 07/11/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:13pm]

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