CAMANO ISLAND —Colton Harris-Moore’s arrest this morning in the Bahamas hopefully will allow Camano Island to again become a peaceful retreat, island residents said today.
“I guarantee that our community and that sane people around the country who aren’t worshiping him are all feeling really good right now,” said Josh Flickner, the owner of the Elger Bay Grocery and president of the island’s chamber of commerce.
Flickner told a small crowd of reporters at a hastily called news conference this afternoon that he learned of the arrest early this morning.
He said he wasn’t angry with police for taking so long to apprehend the 19-year-old fugitive. Instead, Flickner saved his anger for the system that allowed Harris-Moore to escape in 2008 and for the legions of fans who admire the felon’s wanton crimes.
“It’s disgusting. I think our society worshiping him is just sad,” Flickner said. “He’s nothing more than a thief who’s hurt people psychologically, emotionally.”
Other victims were pleased that Harris-Moore ended his spree without causing physical harm.
“I am glad nobody was physically hurt and that Colton will have to answer for his crimes,” said Bob Rivers, a Seattle radio personality and Orcas Island resident. His plane was taken in Nov. 2008 and Harris-Moore is the prime suspect.
Rivers said he just returned from a trip to Bangladesh on a mission for World Vision. The contrast between Harris-Moore’s greed and the people he met was stark.
“I’ve just met some of the sweetest kindest hard working people on the planet, who have nothing. I have seen the smiling faces of children who have had every disadvantage. Their only desire is a chance to go to school and learn so they can make something of themselves.
“Oh, by the way… Most of them are barefoot too,” Rivers said.
Harris-Moore has been called the “Barefoot Bandit” by himself and some media outlets after police spotted him running without shoes from crime scenes. He reportedly was barefoot at the time of his arrest early Sunday.
He stayed true to form, trying to remain free and flee police.
This morning his bare feet were chained together, ending a two-year run from authorities.
“It went down like you expect of Colt,” said Bob Friel, an Orcas Island writer who went to the Bahamas after learning the notorious fugitive was suspected of crashing a plane there.
Friel, who is writing a book about Harris-Moore, said he was near where the arrest was made early Sunday and learned that Harris-Moore chatted with locals prior to being confronted by authorities.
“He tried to run to the very end. A sandbar and police bullets finally stopped his boat and convinced him to give up,” the writer told The Herald today.
On his Outlaws and Outcasts blog, Friel, reported more details of what he was told happened, including reports that Harris-Moore chatted briefly with some people on a dock before he took off in a stolen Boston Whaler for what became his last dash for freedom. Bahamian police reportedly shot out the boat’s outboard engines.
The prolific burglar kept his head down and didn’t answer reporter’s questions as Bahamian police led him toward their headquarters early this morning.
“We’re all very relieved,” said Diana Anderson, an employee at the Elger Bay Grocery on Camano Island, one of the many businesses preyed upon by Harris-Moore. She said all the customers at the small store near Harris-Moore’s childhood home were talking of the arrest today.
“We’re happy that he didn’t get hurt,” she told The Herald.
“I am thankful that Colton Harris-Moore has been taken into custody by the Bahamian authorities,” Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said today. “I pledge my commitment to seek accountability for the many crimes suffered by the citizens of Island County at the hands of this criminal.”
Harris-Moore is expected to appear in a Nassau court this week.
Escorted to jail by six police cars and SUVs, the Camano Island teen had close-shorn hair and wore short camouflage cargo pants, a gray T-shirt and a bulletproof vest. Police blocked traffic on the route to the Central Detective Unit where he was taken for processing.
Harris-Moore was arrested before dawn on the north end of Eleuthera Island, said Sgt. Chrislyn Skippings, a spokeswoman for the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“No comment. No, no, no,” Pam Kohler told The Herald this morning when contacted about the news. She’s Harris-Moore’s mother and lives on south Camano Island. In the past, she’s been supportive of her son’s efforts to remain free. She recently hired an attorney to represent her in dealing with the media.
Law enforcement officials around the Pacific Northwest were reacting Sunday as news of the arrest spread .
“Our citizens can rest easier in the knowledge they will not be further victimized by Harris-Moore,” San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming said in a release issued this morning.
Kyle Ater, whose Orcas Homegrown Market and Gourmet Deli was burglarized in February, said the arrest removes some of the myths around the teenager.
“He’s a real, tangible criminal, because until now he’s been a ghost of a criminal,” he said. “Hopefully he can pay for his crimes now.”