Was it teenage "barefoot bandit" Colton Harris-Moore who stole a plane and later broke into an Orcas Island grocery store Thursday?
Colton Harris-Moore, infamous teenage “barefoot bandit” and cult hero, are you back at it again?
The San Juan County sheriff didn’t find you amusing Thursday as he dealt with your latest alleged crime, and television news cameras descended on Orcas Island for any tidbits about you.
Sheriff William Cumming knows somebody was taunting the cops by drawing in chalk 39 cartoonish footprints on the crime scene’s red concrete floor, and writing near one of the doors, “C-YA!”
The owner of that Orcas Island grocery isn’t laughing — he says he had more than $5,000 damage in computers kicked around, with one left soaking in a stainless tub.
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Plus, $1,200 taken from four cash registers.
And for good measure, an entire blueberry cheesecake, plus produce and some unbaked meat-and-cheese-filled croissants.
And then there is the management company that takes care of a $600,000 Cirrus SR22 four-passenger single-engine plane that somebody stole that same night — flying it from Anacortes to the little airport at Orcas.
Harris-Moore, 18, is a suspect in several other similar plane thefts.
Whoever flew the expensive plane wasn’t very experienced and upon landing the Cirrus went off the runway and into mud.
But, says Tim Lewis, owner of Corporate Air Center in Mount Vernon, it seems only the wheel fenders were damaged.
Lewis says the high-end plane “is a complex airplane that’s easy to fly,” so somebody without legit flying lessons could have flown it. Still, says Lewis, “You don’t need much of a mistake to crash.”
It was Kyle Ater, owner of the Homegrown Market & Gourmet Delicatessen in Orcas, who made the first report of the latest alleged Harris-Moore doings.
He walked in to open his store at 8:15 a.m. Thursday and there were the large chalk outlines of footprints.
“The footprints were all over the store, so obviously he had a lot of time,” says Ater.
“He had cockily drawn them coming in the backdoor and going out the side door.”
Downstairs, there was water pouring out of a three-compartment stainless-steel sink used for washing produce. The floor was flooded.
Somebody had taken a knife and pliers to the component housing a monitor and the hard drive for the store’s security system, ripped it open, and tried to reach in and rip out the hard drive.
Failing to do that, somebody then drowned the computer in the sink, hoping to ruin it.
Cumming says he hopes to have the hard disk salvaged.
He says that although there is no physical evidence right now linking Harris-Moore to the most recent incidents, “the behaviors are very similar” to past burglaries and thefts in which the teen is a suspect.
The chalk footprints, showing bare feet, can’t help but allude to the “barefoot bandit” title the media have given Harris-Moore.
Last year, as Harris-Moore was a suspect in some 50 burglaries and thefts, including more than a dozen in San Juan County, Ater installed the security cameras.
Ater says he also spent six weeks in September and October sleeping in his grocery, a revolver and his dogs handy, to protect the shop.
Nobody broke in.
On the Internet, Harris-Moore, remains a cult hero. He has a fan site devoted to him.
And to cash in on his notoriety, it sells $15.99 T-shirts that allude to his troubled childhood, with the slogan, “MOMMA TRIED,” and a high-contrast image of the young man.
The image used is the now-famous photo Harris-Moore took of himself in 2008, with a stolen and later recovered digital camera, lying in the woods dressed in a collared shirt with a Mercedes-Benz emblem on the chest.
Thursday on Orcas Island, Ater was trying to decide whether to keep unwiped one of the chalk footprints as a tourist attraction. But he worried that’d just perpetuate Harris-Moore’s cult standing.
Ater was asked what Harris-Moore’s punishment should be if he did commit the alleged crimes.
“I think his talent is being wasted. I’d apprehend him and drop him someplace in Afghanistan,” says Ater. “If he does exactly the same thing there as he does here, they’ll go into complete chaos.”
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org