MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas – A wily teenage thief who hopscotched his way across the U.S. and escaped in a stolen plane to the Bahamas lived up to his legend Wednesday, eluding a manhunt after allegedly committing a new series of break-ins on a normally quiet island.
Bahamian police interviewed burglary victims while searching for Colton Harris-Moore on sun-speckled Great Abaco Island days after the fugitive who has been dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” crash-landed the plane and made his way to shore.
His arrival coincided with an annual regatta that may make it easy for him to blend in among the crowds of visiting tourists.
A Royal Bahamian Police Force bulletin warned that the 19-year-old should be considered “armed and dangerous.”
Bar and restaurant owner Alistair McDonald said he was one of the thief’s latest victims.
McDonald said surveillance video captured the suspect inside his establishment in Great Abaco’s Marsh Harbour before dawn Tuesday. He said the teen at one point looked directly into a security camera, then shone a flashlight into it to blur the image and turned all three security cameras to face the wall.
“He seemed pretty relaxed and at ease,” McDonald said, adding he thinks the thief was looking for money or got spooked because he left without stealing anything.
Service station owner Dwight Pinder said his shop on the southern tip of Great Abaco was burglarized Sunday night, shortly after the plane crash in a nearby marsh. The thief stole a Gatorade and two packets of potato chips, leaving a bundle of food and drinks on the counter – a sign he apparently left in a rush.
A nearby house was also burglarized, with the thief making off with a brown Chevrolet Tahoe that was later found abandoned in the town of Marsh Harbour.
Assistant Police Commissioner Glenn Miller said Harris-Moore is a suspect in the burglary of at least seven homes and businesses on Great Abaco, the largest of dozens of small islands and cays that are a part of the sprawling Bahamas archipelago east of Florida. The island is small, but its dense clusters of trees provide good cover.
National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest said local authorities were working with the FBI, which posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to Harris-Moore’s capture.
Pam Kohler, Harris-Moore’s mother, said she wasn’t surprised her son might be able to make the 1,000-mile flight from where the plane was stolen in Bloomington, Ind., to the Bahamas after teaching himself how to fly.
She has publicly defended her son, and claims the allegations against him are exaggerated. She told The Associated Press she would have preferred he fled to a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States.
“The furthest he gets from the U.S., the better,” she said from her home on Camano Island in Washington state. “I’m glad he’s able to enjoy beautiful islands, but they extradite. It doesn’t help matters at all.”
Kohler said she is worried about his safety.
“Colt is not to be flying a single engine-plane,” she insisted, saying she was worried about engine failure. “When I heard that, that just upset me. The rules are he carries a parachute with him and he takes two-engine planes. Tell him he needs to call me.”