A vacationing California teenager used a camera-equipped helicopter drone to track two alleged boat thieves to Whidbey Island, police say.
They might have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that meddling kid.
Two suspects were arrested Wednesday after a teenager with a helicopter drone saw a boat being stolen from Elger Bay on Camano Island.
Fourteen-year-old Christopher Harris, a soon-to-be high-school freshman from California, was vacationing with his family on Camano when he and a friend overheard the engine to their Zodiac watercraft start up.
Reached Thursday morning, Harris said he looked toward the buoy where the boat was tied and saw two people trying to tie it to their own boat. As the pair fled the scene with the Zodiac in tow, Harris said he quickly launched a helicopter drone in an attempt to track the suspects from the air.
“I was thinking that over the water was the best way to follow them, because the islands are too dense with trees,” he said. “Once they’re on land, they’re gone.”
Harris said he received the drone earlier this year as a gift for making the honor roll. Using an iPad, Harris said he used the drone to track the boat as it sped across the bay.
After initially losing the suspects, he saw their boat heading toward Whidbey Island before the drone hit its maximum broadcast range.
Alerted by the Harris family, deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office met the suspects — a husband and wife — where they landed on a beach near the 3700 block of Bells Lane near Langley, said department spokesman Detective Ed Wallace.
The male suspect initially denied any wrongdoing when questioned by investigators, but later admitted to taking the Zodiac without the Harris family’s permission, as well as stealing the 18-foot boat the couple had used to travel to Camano Island, according to an arrest affidavit.
The pair were arrested on suspicion of multiple offenses, including first-degree theft and possession of stolen property.
Both suspects are at the Island County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.
The Seattle Times does not typically name suspects before charges are filed.
The day after the incident, Christopher Harris’ aunt, Katy Harris, applauded her nephew’s “quick thinking.”
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“He’s a smart kid, and I think it’s remarkable that he was able to use something technological in the way that he did,” she said.
The teen said he never expected to use the drone for crime-fighting purposes.
“I usually only use it for landscape photography,” he said. “It was all pretty unbelievable.”