Colton Harris-Moore's first criminal conviction for theft came at the age of 12, and his rise to spectacular folk hero status proceeded logarithmically from there. From ages 12 to 17, Harris-Moore went from stealing bicycles to stealing automobiles, speedboats, and, finally, light aircraft. He also robbed a hundred or so private residences of things such as bear mace and night vision goggles, presumably anticipating his future of hiding in the wilderness with search helicopters whizzing overhead.
You have to be prepared if you're going to spend a lot of time hiding under ferns.
In May of 2010, police in Raymond, Washington, found $100 and a handwritten note outside of a veterinary clinic that read: "Drove by, had some extra cash. Please use this money for the care of animals," signed by Harris-Moore. Of course, the car he drove by in had been stolen, as well as the cash, but at least he proved himself to be compassionate when it came to the welfare of animals, if not to the people whose shit he couldn't stop stealing.
It was after finding that note that the feds connected Harris-Moore to a string of auto thefts in Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, and the hunt was on. Around this time, news of his antics started to spread and a Facebook fan page was launched that gained 60,000 members and 100,000 likes. He became an Internet sensation, and people started selling T-shirts with his picture on it and the caption "Momma Tried." He became known as the "Barefoot Bandit" for reportedly committing some of his crimes while barefoot, but also for taunting the police by drawing 39 cartoonish chalk outlines of bare feet at a crime scene with the word "c'ya."
We give him an A+ for cryptic, but a C for penmanship.
Harris-Moore knew the heat was closing in on him in the U.S., so he did what any 19-year-old kid who had only ever flown a plane in video games would do: He stole a Cessna 400 single-engine plane from an airfield in Bloomington, Indiana, and flew it to the Bahamas.
Miraculously, he did not die during any of this, even managing to survive a crash landing in the Bahamas, where he would thereafter steal a speedboat. He was finally arrested there by police, who shot out the engine on his boat, prompting a dramatic scene in which Harris-Moore threw all of his stolen money into the ocean and put a gun to his head.
He threatened to kill himself, but the police talked him out of it, putting the final touches on the story that we all know we'll end up seeing in a theater. And indeed, 20th Century Fox bought the movie rights not long after the handcuffs closed around Harris-Moore's wrists.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Don't commit crimes, young people, or strangers will put you on a T-shirt and make you very popular.
Nathan J. Ringroos runs the site Taking Sense Away, which chronicles life on the run from his former employer, the Transportation Security Administration.
Related Reading: With so many bad guys on the lamb, sometimes it's nice to see a criminal repaid by instant karma. And if stupid outlaws are your passion, these selfie-taking phone burglars should be everything you need. Of course, those amateurs don't hold a candle to the man who applied to work at a convenience store and then immediately robbed it.