Residents of Orcas and Camano islands were heartened Sunday when they learned of the arrest of "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore.
When staff at the Island Market on Orcas Island gleefully announced over the loudspeaker Sunday morning that Colton Harris-Moore had been caught in the Bahamas, a cheer erupted across the grocery.
Scott Lancaster, who owns a nearby Ace Hardware store, said he was among those whooping it up.
Lancaster’s shop, as well as the grocery, was among a string of businesses allegedly targeted by Harris-Moore this year.
Lancaster said his first thought when he learned Harris-Moore was arrested was: “It’s about time.”
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“We’re just glad it’s over, and now the guy can get what he deserves. Hopefully, it’s a long jail sentence,” Lancaster said. “The guy has absolutely no regard for personal property.”
Since the crime wave attributed to Harris-Moore hit the island in the fall of 2008, residents have “been on edge,” Lancaster said.
He said he was awakened Feb. 28 to an alert that his hardware store had been burglarized. Deputies searched around the building and nearby streets for clues, but the person responsible for the 5:30 a.m. break-in was nowhere to be found.
Lancaster since has installed a security system at his store, something he never thought would be necessary on the normally idyllic island.
According to the San Juan Island County Sheriff’s Office, Harris-Moore first arrived on Orcas Island in November 2008, when a Cessna 182 was stolen from a hangar and crash-landed near the Yakama Nation reservation. In September 2009, an experimental aircraft from Friday Harbor was stolen and flown to Orcas Island, where it, too, made a “hard landing.”
Like many people on Camano Island, Lancaster and other Eastsound residents are hoping the arrest of Harris-Moore will signal an end to the onslaught of media attention from across the country.
“My wife and I were in New Orleans for an Ace convention back in March and the shuttle driver knew about the ‘Barefoot Bandit,’ ” Lancaster said.
On Camano Island, a line of media personnel crowded at the end of Harris-Moore’s driveway Sunday, hoping to capture his mother’s attention. Posted at the end of the drive are “No Trespassing” signs and a hand-lettered sign that reads: “Notice: If you go past this sign you will be shot.”
Mariah Campbell, 19, also paused to find out what was going on. Campbell said she went to elementary school with Harris-Moore and recalled reports that he broke into the school in fifth grade, hacked into a teacher’s computer and also pulled the fire alarm.
Campbell said Colton-Moore was a bully and not well-liked in school.
“I just hope he gets himself straightened out,” she said.
Nearby, at the Elger Bay Grocery, customers gossiped about Harris-Moore in the parking lot and as they lined up to buy beer and soda.
Store clerk Diana Anderson, a resident of South Camano, said the news of Harris-Moore’s arrest has lifted “a big weight off my shoulders.”
“I had lost my freedom,” Anderson said, adding she and others have spent years locking doors and windows and fearing for their safety.
When Camano Island resident Doug Merrill pulled up in front of the store and spotted his friend, Bob Wasson, the men immediately began talking about the arrest.
“I don’t think he’s any dumbbell,” said Wasson, who knows Harris-Moore’s mother. “He just boxed himself in” when he fled to the Bahamas.
“Maybe law enforcement needs to hire him,” Merrill said. “For one person to outsmart so many law-enforcement officers in so many states … “
“I think the interesting part of the story is how he got so far,” Wasson mused. “I tell you, he’s a wily little boy.”
Elger Bay Grocery was the site of one of the most brazen crimes attributed to Harris-Moore, authorities have said. On July 17, 2008, the then-17-year-old is suspected of jumping from a stolen Mercedes-Benz as it was heading toward the grocery. The car struck a trash bin and clipped a propane line.
Josh Flickner, who manages the South Camano grocery, said Harris-Moore has been “extremely lucky” until now.
“To have him off the streets, to have him not terrorizing communities over the country, whether it’s ours or Nebraska or the Bahamas, it doesn’t matter,” Flickner said. “To have this thief caught, feels really good.”
Anderson echoed her boss.
“I’m real happy he got caught and we don’t have to worry about him anymore,” Anderson said. “We’re really impressed with the Bahamas police; they caught him so fast. We went three years with him wandering around here.”
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