Bail bonds companies are launching their own effort to capture Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "Barefoot Bandit" suspected of a series of crimes on Camano, Orcas and San Juan counties
With a $6,500 bounty on the head of Colton Harris-Moore, it may come as no surprise that Mike Rocha and some of his colleagues have joined in the hunt for the so-called “Barefoot Bandit.”
Rocha, after all, is a “fugitive recovery specialist” — aka bounty hunter.
Harris-Moore, 19, isn’t accused of skipping bail, although he did escape from a halfway house for teens more than two years ago before launching into what authorities believe is a spree of burglaries and thefts. Rocha says he and the other bondsmen are donating their services free in an effort to capture the young man who, he said, is “terrorizing” several communities.
Rocha, an Everett-based bondsman, believes the reward for Harris-Moore’s capture and the growing number of people involved in the hunt has increased the likelihood that anyone helping to hide him will be compelled to turn him in. On Tuesday night, Rocha and other “fugitive recovery specialists” met with residents on Camano Island to discuss their search effort. Rocha said that he and the other fugitive recovery specialists are dedicating their services to the search for free.
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Troy Hansen, owner of All City Bailbonds in Seattle, said he’s so supportive of the search that his company contributed $2,500 to the reward fund.
Harris-Moore has been on the lam since April 2008 following his escape from a Renton halfway house, where he was serving time for burglarizing Camano Island homes. Since then, he has made international headlines for avoiding law enforcement while being blamed for a series of thefts, including boats, airplanes and luxury cars, and breaking into homes and businesses.
His trail, according to law-enforcement officials, has ranged from Camano, San Juan and Orcas islands, to Snohomish County and even Idaho.
As Harris-Moore’s alleged crimes have become more brash, his notoriety has expanded into a cultlike following, with Facebook pages. Various national publications have portrayed him as a sort of modern-day Robin Hood, igniting the ire of his victims, who see him as nothing more than a common criminal with a knack for avoiding capture. He has even been nicknamed the “Barefoot Bandit” because surveillance video has captured him committing crimes in his bare feet.
Sheriffs Mark Brown of Island County and Bill Cumming of San Juan County have lambasted Harris-Moore for his alleged crimes. Cumming said that one officer even heard Harris-Moore laughing when he managed to outrun police in the Orcas Island town of Eastsound last summer.
Nonetheless, Brown has said that he doesn’t support the volunteer effort from the bail-bonds businesses.
“I will continue to share investigative information with the various police agencies involved in apprehending Colton Harris-Moore, but not to private interest groups, bounty hunters, etc.,” Brown wrote in a news release e-mailed Friday.
Rocha said he has talked with Cumming about the effort by the team of bondsmen and the sheriff was supportive. Cumming could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Rocha, who owns Bail Enforcement Agency, declined to say how they planned to find Harris-Moore, but he hoped that people who attend Tuesday’s meeting would help them piece together a complete history of the young man — who his friends are and who might be helping him.
Rocha said he sees Harris-Moore as a troubled youth in need of help. He said that once Harris-Moore is arrested, they would like to help him make bail and have already lined up an attorney to work on his case pro bono. While Rocha said this isn’t something he does for all of his customers, he sees great things in Harris-Moore’s future.
“He’s had a rough childhood. He’s at a juncture in his life — he can either be a career criminal or he could step forward, get this behind him, get a movie deal, sign a book deal and make some money and start his adult life,” Rocha said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org