Barefoot Burglar, 18, suspected of stealing planes, etc.

This young fellow is Colton "Colt" Harris-Moore, aka "The Barefoot Burglar." Police in Washington State say the 18-year-old is suspected of stealing, joy-flying, and then crashing three small planes in the past year. His nickname came from previous burglaries he committed, sans shoes. He's also jacked luxury cars and boats. This photo was retrieved from a digital camera Harris-Moore nabbed from a Mercedes he had also stolen. The Mercedes shirt he's sporting apparently belonged to the owner of the stolen vehicle. Arrested nine times before he was 15, Harris-Moore squats in empty vacation homes on the state's coast, police say, or sleeps in the great outdoors. He has a fan club page on Facebook. From CNN:
 Cnn 2009 Crime 10 08 Washington.Barefoot.Burglar Art.Colt(Island County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed) Wallace said Harris-Moore has charged thousands of dollars worth of video games, GPS devices and police scanners online, using stolen credit cards.

The theft of a Cessna 182 from the San Juan Islands in November jogged Wallace's memory. He recalled what he had found on a computer he said Harris-Moore used. "He had looked at flight manuals and how to fly a plane," he said...

Harris-Moore's mother doubts her son learned to fly on his own.

"Any time anything is stolen, they blame it on Colt," Pam Kohler told the Everett Herald newspaper. "Let's say you're the smartest person in the world. Wouldn't you need a little bit of training in flying a plane? They're not easy."
"Police suspect 'Barefoot Burglar' is stealing, crashing planes"

UPDATE: BB friend Glenn Fleishman writes:
While it's too late to prevent worldwide coverage of this kid's activities, as a local (about an hour south of Camano Island in Seattle) getting regular updates in the paper and other media about Harris-Moore, I'm concerned about him simply staying alive.

This week, when sheriffs were investigating a theft at a home remote from others, a shot was fired, they report. No one was hit, and the sheriffs are not alleging that Harris-Moore fired it. Nonetheless, I worry that he's already become a folk hero, and we all know how American folk heroes end: in a blaze of bullets, death by police.

While this may all seem remote and romantic, the kid's mother--oddly proud of him for apparently teaching himself to fly and clearly in routine communication with him--fears he'll be killed.

He's clearly a brilliant kid, who would probably have done better in rural Alaska than in exurban Washington state. I just hope he comes out of the cold, accepts some part of his role, and perhaps moves on to a more interesting life.


  1. This kid is my new hero.

    Seriously though it doesn’t take much to fly a plane… Most flight sim programs are modeled so closely on the real thing that a lot of flight sim enthusiasts only need a couple hour refresher course to pilot the real thing. Considering I was really good at flight sim 4 for DOS back in the late 80’s or so, I think I’d stand a fair chance at being able to pilot one reasonably without any other further training.

    1. Why front & center at BB

      Excellent question! Can’t this sort of scum be added askew and to the rear on BB?

    1. The little bastard might get to jail a little faster thanks to the dissemination of his picture and last known whereabouts VIA Boing Boing. I’m sure if he’s smarter than a sack of doorknobs, he doesn’t view this publicity as an ego boost, but as a very real threat to his continuing freedom.

  2. This kid could have a serious career as a repo man. Anyone else see the 60 Minutes episode way back about the repo man who jetsets around the world stealing expensive planes and boats?

  3. “Media Representatives: Please ask for permission before quoting our site. Thank you.” Yes indeed; support the outlaws but please respect our copyright. Idiots.

  4. Nothing special, airplanes will take themselves off and if you know the basics, you can get around. It’s the landings that take skill, which he doesn’t have. So far he’s been lucky…

    As to his mom’s statement about wearing a parachute, umm, that’s not how it works…

  5. I don’t see how this post necessarily glorifies Colton’s actions, but seems fairly close to unbiased reporting. Having some kind of obligatory finger wag or head shake accompanying every post regarding someone committing criminal acts would become too annoying to tolerate.

    And aren’t all of the posts front & center, as there’s only one BoingBoing page now?

  6. I’ve played with flight simulators but probably not as much as some people. I have also flown a glider with a trainer once. The two aren’t similar enough that you can just hop in and fly. Coordinating the rudder with the stick when you bank isn’t easy. You also need a bit of familiarity (or a trainer) to not let everything that’s happening overwhelm you. You also need some serious guts to think what you’ve learned in a flight sim will carry over the way you expect in a new aircraft.

  7. @Comatose51

    On a calm day, you can set the trim, shove the throttle to the wall and if you aren’t too concerned about p-factor and drift, the airplane pretty much takes itself off. Nobody’s seen the guy fly, but if you’re so lucky, coordination and all those other edjumicated things probably kind of don’t show up in his flying style. The telling factor is the landings, they highlight a common saying that’s tacked to the hangar wall: “There’s old pilots, and there’s bold pilots, but there’s no old, bold pilots.” The kid thinks he’s got cojones, but he may lose touch with them here pretty quick…

  8. Could this kid be autistic? I thought I read about a couple examples of autistic young people/adults repeatedly stealing forms of transportation. (Wasn’t there one guy who did this with subway trains?)

    I mean maybe this guy’s just a jerk who never learned to respect other people, but it seems weird that this started so young and involved cars/boats/planes.

    Either way, I hope he gets some kind of help before he ends up with serious jail time and an unsealed, adult criminal record.

  9. I know from experience that taking off in a small plane, even navigating one, is so easily learned that just talking you through it suffices for training. Landing a plane is different. Coordinating the rudder and other control surfaces is a very difficult skill to master; and one that requires constant practice to maintain.
    It does sound like he’s getting regular practice, though, doesn’t it!

  10. 18? He’ll either be in jail for a long sentence or dead by 20. It sounds like he has little care for other’s property or his own safety.

  11. “The little bastard needs to be behind bars, not ego-boosted on Boing Boing.”

    Why did I see this coming?

  12. ZOMG! Everybody please, stop all news reports of criminals and their activities NOW, lest we give the perps an ego boost!

    Um, I fail to see how posting an item about a fugitive who still seems to be on a crime spree (along with a helpful picture to identify him if you do see him) qualifies as hero-worship. I know from experience that the commenters here on BB are for the most part a level-headed bunch whose stated opinions (which I don’t always agree with) at least have some evidence of being the product of a thought process. Some of the comments here are causing me to wonder if I may have misjudged.

  13. I picture a man in a dark suit standing outside his cell:

    “Kid, you can spend the rest of your life behind those bars, or you can work for us. What’s it gonna be?”

  14. He’s going to have that dumb smile wiped off his face very soon. They’d smack his wrist for plowing drunk into another car and killing someone, or date-raping women on spring break, but stealing rich people’s toys, that will bring the full force and fury of righteous justice down on his neck.

  15. I’d love to see the psych workup that they’ll do when they finally catch up with him. This kid seems like one odd duck.

  16. It just goes to show that there are a lot of things that people can get away with if they just do them. I wonder how many times the kid has stolen a plane, flown the thing, landed it without incident, then went home or whatever. It is only when he screws up that people notice. I am not trying to glorify the kid or anything though, he should go to jail or learn to use his talents for something else.

  17. Flying a plane *IS* easy. Taking off is a bit more difficult. Flying safely ditto. And… well, there’s a reason that his landings tend to be crash landings.

  18. i don’t care what anyone says, that is FRIGGING AWESOME. squatting in coastal villas? stealing benz’s, boats, and planes? he’s like stewie griffin meets james bond, without the attempted matricide or espionage.

  19. “”He’s almost like a feral child,” [Detective] Wallace said.”

    *sigh* Why can’t law enforcement find less moronic representatives to talk to the press?

  20. The local police were really pissed that the the kid is being made a hero. “He’s an adult felon,” said one. They were doing DNA testing on vomit found in the cockpit of the last plane that was crashed, so it looks like his flights have been “exciting” and that he is really, really lucky.

  21. As a pilot, I’ll concur with what others have said here.

    Flying a light aircraft in real life is easy after a little practice with a computer flight sim. Taking off is a little harder, but still pretty easy, high wing aircraft like 182s want to fly.

    Landing a real life light aircraft is much more difficult and mistakes can be unforgiving.

  22. First, as a licensed pilot for over two decades, yes, it’s damned easy to fly an airplane. The hard part is judgment. Are you in safe weather conditions? Is your plane truly airworthy for what you’re going to fly through? Do you know how you’re going to navigate your way from one place to another? Do you have alternate plans in case you can’t land at the destination? The list goes on…

    And judgment is where this kid is stuck on stupid. I hope he never flies another airplane again. I also hope he apologizes to the owners of the airplanes he destroyed. If, instead of assuming these are fat-cats, you actually found out who owned then, I think the smug “stick it to the rich” undercurrent would evaporate.

  23. This is like a ‘Superfriends’ episode (from the 1970’s) that my young daughter loves to watch on DVD. In it, the Wonder Twins rescue two teenagers who take a plane out for a joyride. This is kind of a PSA feature of the Superfriends series – each episode has a segment that warns kids not to do dangerous things (swimming without a buddy; hitchhiking, etc.). I thought is was really silly to warn kids not to take joyrides in airplanes (cars would make more sense) – but I guess I was wrong about that.

  24. This kid sounds a bit like Frank Abagnale jr. Too much brains and too little to hold his interest.

    After Frank was caught, he went to work for the Federal Govt (in exchange for parole) and started his own consulting business, making him a millionaire.

    Hopefully this misdirected kid will head down that path, assuming some overzealous cop doesn’t gun him down.

  25. You just KNOW he’s already got 5 or 6 escape plans ready to go. A psychiatric angle, and abuse angle, the aformentioned autistic possibility etc.

    I can just picture his first meeting with his lawyer after he’s apprehended…

    Lawyer: “OK, here’s how we’re gonna play this..”

    BB – “Hmmm, y’know what? I think the autistic slash O.C.D. scenario is what I can sell the best to a jury. You see, I’ve been on a veritable what’s what-type cocktail of psychoactive medication for the past long while now. I tried to tell the doctors i was feeling a little out of sorts, but they weren’t having it. I swear I don’t know if I’m coming or going half the time. I’ll need to take the stand of course…aaand the jury selection will need to go our way. Of course, i think I’ve figured out a way to make that happen. Did I mention I can sob on cue? I’m talking open the floodgates here.”

    I wonder if he’ll do any time at all…

  26. As a pilot for the past 17 years, I’d like to clarify a few things I’ve read above. The fact that planes are “easy to fly” is both true and false. To a person with formal training, yes, they are easy to fly. But to a novice, I’m surprised he even got it started. Getting it into the air is reasonable, but there are critical stall speeds to consider on both take off and landing, as well as winds, flap settings, fuel pumps/shut off switches, rudder control on take-off and runway lenghths. Furthermore, a C-182 has a constant speed prop, which is set based on manifold pressure and should be positioned correctly for takeoff, cruise, and landing. It would seem to me that IF he did steal these planes, there is “more to the story”. Anyway…I wish the kid luck! I’ve always been an underdog fan!

    1. Have you used ms flight sim in any recent version?

      It certainly seems as though all of those things are well accounted for, both in terms of functionality and location in the plane.

      IANAP so YMMV, buy it sure seems to me that there is enough information there to learn to take off, fly to a destination either IFR or VFR, and then fail to land without crashing.

  27. Comes out of the cold and accepts his part. Are naive or dillusional? Colton better stay on the low down, and float over the Canadian border when he decides to live in society. He’s 18 now, and the judicial system plans to make an example of his rogue behind. He’ll be doing 20 years in a place worse than Hell. Be in it to win it Colton. Head North when the heat gets too hot.

  28. a talent for stealing cars, boats, planes, and credit cards does not make this kid a genius. It makes him a talented thief, and doesn’t really qualify him for anything other than A) legal repercussions of his actions and B) educating law enforcement on the latest thieving techniques so they know what to look for.

  29. Seems like this kid is throwing his future away on a few popularity stunts.Eventually he will have to face the repricussions of his actions.Maby he should go into the millitary so he can steal the enemy’s W.M.D.Instead of hurting innicent peoples lives by his irresponsible actions and detstroyning property.He needs to put those tallents into a usefull honest and constructive job.Turn yourself in.

  30. im a private pilot,, and i gotta say. I give the guy props for being able to fly the plane with no training and without hurting himself. Flying is not the hard part its landing, as you can see…

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